BLOG: Remember with Patches

When young children are facing the loss of a loved one, communicating with them in a sensitive, open and age-appropriate way can make a big difference to the way they process what’s happening and come to terms with their loss in the longer term.

That’s why St Luke’s, caring for more and more parents of young children, has launched a pilot to provide much needed support for these families. Lisa Carter is the dedicated Patches Family and Children’s Support Worker, Patches being the cute Koi carp character who’s fast becoming a familiar face at the specialist unit at Turnchapel.

Patches was created by St Luke’s talented Graphic Designer Jesse-James Cambridge with the help of illustrator Marie Arroyo to extend a  fin of friendship to children facing loss. As well as featuring in ‘Remember with Patches’, a pre-bereavement activity book and the play room, our fishy figure provides clues around the grounds of the specialist unit as part ofa fun trail.

On creating Patches, Jesse said: “Patches is a great tool for Lisa in her work, but also acts as a way for children to learn about St Luke’s and continue making memories at home. We decided to give the pilot a ‘mascot’ character at an early stage, and with a beautiful Koi pond at Turnchapel and being so close to the ocean, a fish seemed like the right choice. Children reading the book at home will be able to visit the real Patches when they arrive at Turnchapel – this familiarity should hopefully alleviate some of the fear they might have on their first visit.”

“The myth that fish have very short term memories gave the character a relatable motive to children who might not yet understand what a memory really is, as well as the importance of making memories with their loved ones.”

“In the interactive storybook, Patches learns how the people he loves are always with him in his memories. That’s a powerful message that children can relate to, and I hope it helps them come to terms with what’s happening to their loved one. This project was a real privilege to work on.”

Lisa – who was a Healthcare Assistant at St Luke’s for nine years before moving into this role – is using Patches as part of her work. She has been busy supporting over 50 children following the launch of the pilot in November 2017, with referrals coming through the Social Care team at St Luke’s.

Describing her work, Lisa said: “Every family’s situation is different so it’s really important that I work with them in a way that’s tailored to their specific needs. Sometimes that involves just a phonecall, sometimes much more hands-on support. I can also refer them to other agencies that can help.”

“I arrange to meet the parents or grandparents to talk through what’s happening and find out how they want to be supported, what their children are aware of and what they want them to know, before going on to meet the children either at home or at our specialist unit.”

Lisa’s focus is on supporting children through the trauma and explaining what’s happening in a way that’s appropriate to their age. Her background in healthcare is proving invaluable to this. “My experience helps me to describe things such as catheters and weightloss sensitively, which helps prepare children for the changes they’ll see as the health of their loved one deteriorates,” she said.

As part of her work in building a rapport with the children, Lisa often uses arts and crafts activities, such as making sun-catchers or painting moneyboxes. “This is something the children enjoy,” said Lisa. “And the distraction of creating something is an effective way of opening up difficult conversations with them.”

“While it is very sad that these children are facing something so difficult, it’s really encouraging to see the difference this support makes to them, being appropriately sad and grieving in a healthy way.”

To read the online story book, or access the free downloadable resources for children, visit the Remember with Patches page of our site.

The Patches project was made possible with the generous support of The Morrisons Foundation.

BLOG: Men’s Day Out – ‘The best charity event in Plymouth’

With Men’s Day Out now finished for another year and 1,850 of the male population hopefully now fully recovered the St Luke’s Events Team go in to review mode. In order to attempt to make next years event even better we do our utmost to assess the wins and areas that need further thought.

We caught up with Al Joynes, a 4 year veteran of the event and founder of Plymouth based social enterprise and brand logo design platform to give us his thoughts.

“Men’s Day Out is without doubt the best charity event in Plymouth. I look forward to it every year. It’s brilliantly organised on the day and has been clearly thought out so that it’s just very easy to do.

I’m sure many of the participants like me are in the same boat with a young family. My wonderful wife accepts that this isn’t just an excuse for a massive pub crawl jolly (apparently there are a good few pubs on the way) but a way in which to spread the word and support a very worthy service. Those of us that live in and around Plymouth all know or have known those that have been cared for by the team at St Luke’s.

It also poses as a great excuse to catch up with friends, colleagues and family. It’s a 12km walk carried out over 4 to 5 hours, believe me a lot of topics are covered during chats on the way around. You also find yourself chatting to complete strangers who like you have signed up to participate and the bantery and cammorardary is world-class (as you would expect from Plymouth). I particularly enjoyed talking to a couple of blokes dressed as bananas and a group dressed as Musketeers, I felt fully underdressed, but it did inspire some ideas for next year, not that fancy dress is a requirement of the event.

Throw in watching the rugby at Plymouth Albion at the end of walk, with a free pasty and pint to top it all off and you have a thoroughly entertaining brilliant day.

This year started with a full english breakfast at Plymouth City Market for our group which, as a veteran of the event, I absolutely recommend.

However, two years ago I used the Men’s Day Out as my stag-do. It was absolutely brilliant! Friends, laughs, many costume changes (thanks to my friends and ever hilarious brother), a ‘ahem’ couple of drinks, rugby and a load of money raised for charity ticked all my boxes. England also smashed France to win the Six Nations Grand Slam, but for some reason, as memorable as that should have been, I had forgotten that I’d watched the game in the Albion clubhouse and had to watch the highlights the next day.

If you know someone who is getting married after March next year I would wholeheartedly put Men’s Day Out in their eye-line as a stag do suggestion.

Above-all the most heart-warming part for me that continues year on year is the volume of motorists, who on seeing the masses of men walking together for a great cause, beeb their horns in support. I have already registered my interest for next year.” Al Joynes

If like Al, you will be looking to participate in Men’s Day Out again next year or you are interested in signing up for your very first go, you can register your interest here.

Thank you again to all those that participated in the 2018 Men’s Day Out and we hope to see you and many others again next year.


PR: Elmer puts St Luke’s ahead of the herd

When it comes to encouraging more open discussion around the sensitive subjects of death and dying, St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth is leading the herd, with a fun and enchanting trail that’s set to add a splash of colour across our city and get people talking.

In collaboration with independent children’s books publisher Andersen Press and creator of public art events Wild in Art, St Luke’s is bringing Elmer the patchwork elephant – the iconic, much-loved storybook character created by Devon-born author and artist David McKee – to Plymouth for Elmer’s Big Parade in 2019, 30 years since Andersen Press first published the Elmer story.
For ten weeks over summer 2019, the eye-catching Elmer’s Big Parade will be adding colour and fun to the city and surrounding areas, where St Luke’s cares for patients with progressive life-limiting illnesses and supports their families and carers.

The 40 unique elephant sculptures, each painted by an established or emerging local artist, will form a trail that will both attract new visitors to Plymouth, curious to see what Elmer is up to, and encourage residents to explore areas they might not have ventured to before.
The sculptures will help people ‘navigate’ the city while increasing awareness of St Luke’s, de-mystifying death, dying and hospice care, and raising vital funds to help the charity look after more patients who need its compassionate care.

The project also includes an interactive app to help people follow the herd, detailing the sculpture locations and enabling them to join the Elmer community by uploading selfies as they go.
Running alongside the trail will be an engaging interactive educational programme for Key Stage 2 and 3 school children that will aid their understanding of death and dying in an age-appropriate way.

Elmer’s Big Parade will be formally launched on 21 March 2018 at Ocean Studios, when a bespoke Elmer designed by popular local artist Brian Pollard will take pride of place alongside a ‘classic’ bright patchwork Elmer.

Following the launch, artists will be invited to submit their designs from June 2018, with the sculpture trail opening in July 2019.

Speaking about the project, St Luke’s Chief Executive Steve Statham said: “An elephant never forgets and that’s a key message for us, too. We want to help people create lasting memories and at St Luke’s we are very proud that we can do this for many patients and their families.

“We’re really excited about Elmer’s Big Parade. As well as being full of fun that will spread a big grin across Plymouth and the wider area, it will encourage meaningful discussion about death, dying and bereavement, subjects we often shy away from but would all benefit from being more open about.
“In addition to being a great free and healthy day out for all the family as they walk the trail, it will also attract new visitors to our city, raising Plymouth’s profile and bringing economic benefits, as well as showcasing a wealth of local artistic talent.”

Charlie Langhorne, Director, Wild in Art, added: “By joining forces with Andersen Press and creating a blank 3D canvas inspired by the famous patchwork elephant, we just know that this big parade will have a positive impact on Plymouth’s residents and visitors, and of course St Luke’s. With similar parades featuring Elmer in Ipswich and Tyne & Wear too, we’re excited to be turning the country patchwork for fantastic causes in 2019.”

Paul Black, PR Director, Andersen Press, added: “We are delighted to be working with St Luke’s and Wild in Art on this project, and cannot wait to see the colourful Elmers around Plymouth – to bring this amazing trail to Plymouth, a place so close to the heart of David McKee, Elmer’s creator, is really the icing on the cake. Here’s hoping we raise lots of money for St Luke’s Hospice, whilst making a fun, inclusive and interactive trail for the public.”

St Luke’s is offering local businesses and other organisations the opportunity to sponsor one of the 40 unique Elmer sculptures that are set to enchant and inspire. Ultimately, these sculptures will be auctioned off to raise money for St Luke’s, ensuring a fitting legacy for the people and communities of Plymouth and the surrounding areas which benefit from the charity’s outstanding care.

Local artists and businesses, find out more!

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NEWS: VOLUNTEER OPEN DAY | trawling for treasure at St Luke’s

When it comes to boosting your skills, making new friends and improving your health, there’s nothing quite like volunteering. Giving some of your spare time – whether it’s an hour or two once a week or several days a month – to help a good cause has been shown to do all of this and more while providing critical support to help charities like St Luke’s.

Our volunteers are absolutely vital to the operation of St Luke’s and we couldn’t do what we do without them. From students to retired people and from a wide variety of backgrounds, they generously give their time in a host of different roles across our organisaton.

While many are based in our shops, others give their time to help in the cafe at our specialist unit at Turnchapel, become befrienders to our patients or marshal at our key fundraising events, such as the Neon Midnight Walk and Tour de Moor. And there’s another way our fantastic volunteers pitch in – hunting for treasure at our Charity Shop Distribution Centre in Plympton!

It’s at the warehouse that each year thousands of donated items are given by people who choose to drop them off there rather than in our charity shops. Clothes, coins, crockery, books, records, toys, games, jewellery – the sheer variety of the items we receive is something to behold! And all of them need careful sorting, which is where our volunteers come in.

“We call these volunteers our treasure hunters,” said Mark Kendall, Logistics and Recycling Manager. “That’s because they’ve developed a good eye for spotting the interesting and unusual – and sometimes highly collectable – items that can help us raise that bit more money for St Luke’s.

“They work hard, sifting through bric-a-brac before it’s allocated according to which of our shops it suits best, and always keeping an eye out for something special – so it can be an exciting role and there’s often a real buzz.”

On Saturday 21 April, there’s an opportunity to find out more at the Open Day at the Distribution Centre. From 11am to 3pm and open to everyone, it’s a family-friendly event with activities for children and a barbecue, as well as guided tours and taster sessions giving insight into what it’s like to be a ‘treasure hunter’ for St Luke’s. Those who attend will also see the recycling side, which generates income for our charity too.

Mark said: “Without these volunteers, things would grind to a halt. It’s their generosity in giving their time and skills that makes all the difference. And as well as sometimes finding that ‘treasure’, many volunteers say that expanding their circle of friends and feeling part of something as important as St Luke’s and the care we provide gives them an amazing boost.”

Event information:
Volunteer Open Day
Saturday 21 April 2018
11am to 3pm
St Luke’s Charity Shop Distribution Centre, Plympton, PL7 4JN. Directions.

No booking required, just turn up on the day!

For more information call 01752 401172 and ask for volunteer services.


NEWS: Co-op celebrate a life at Men’s Day Out 2018

With just two weeks left to register, places for our our Men’s Day Out on 24 March are going fast!

Not only is it an opportunity for a great time with your mates, it’s a chance to celebrate the memory of someone special.

This is just what a team from the Co-op depot in Plympton will be doing when they get together for the day of rugby and banter and walk in memory of Mark, younger brother of colleague Adam Weir, who was looked after by St Luke’s until he sadly passed away recently.

Adam’s colleague, Warehouse Shift Manager Alex Whitehouse, said: “We know from the great care Mark received – and the way St Luke’s cared for a colleague of mine when I was in the Navy – that the nurses there are all angels. They always go above and beyond.

“Mark meant so much to so many people. This is a great way to celebrate his life and raise money for a fantastic charity too. Currently, five of us have signed up and we’re recruiting others. It will be a great day out for an amazing cause!”

Men’s Day Out is powered by IU Energy and there’ll be an extra FREE pint on the day for every guy who raises £100 or more in sponsorship.

Sign up here!


NEWS | students spend the day at St Luke’s

Year 12 and 13 students from Plympton Academy spent the day at St Luke’s to learn more about the role of hospice care in our community and the skills required to pursue a career in health and social care. The students are studying the BTEC Level 3 Extended Certificate in Health and Social Care.

If your school or college is interested in a similar experience, please contact Sister Sue Horsfall | or call 01752 401172.


NEWS: Sail for St Luke’s in the Eddystone Pursuit

Last year, the wonderful crew of the six yachts that took part in the Eddystone Pursuit on behalf of St Luke’s raised a fantastic £4,000 in prize money and sponsorship – enough for us to care for four patients and their families at home.

We’d love to match – or surpass! – that figure this year, to help us care for more people who need our compassionate care.

The Eddystone Pursuit is the South West’s biggest sailing fundraising event and is a 26 mile challenge to the Eddystone Lighthouse and back.

This year’s event is on 23 June and you can sign up from today. In doing so, you’ll experience an exhilarating challenge while making a difference to our patients when time is short.

If you have a boat or have the skills to lend a hand on deck and want to support St Luke’s, please contact Pete Ward in our Fundraising Department on 01752 492626 or email

BLOG: According to Doctor Jeff

In the second summary of his thought-provoking articles on hospice care, Dr Jeff Stephenson, St Luke’s Consultant in Palliative Care and Medical Director, focuses on the challenges facing hospices – and how we’re preparing to meet them.

“St Luke’s and other hospices face major challenges as we work out how to respond to the anticipated changes in our society and the economic uncertainties. The hospice movement is 50 years old and its story has in many respects changed the narrative of the dying and bereaved in our society for the better. But movements peter out and influence wanes, and it is the next chapter that will determine whether in another 50 years time the story is alive and as positive as it is now, or just a footnote in history.

“More than 1 in 5 people in north, east and west Devon are over the age of 65, and by 2021 this will have risen to almost 1 in 4. Nationally, by 2035 half of all people dying will be aged over 85. As we get older the likelihood of living and dying with more than one medical condition rises dramatically, with consequences on health and social care provision. For instance, the number of people with dementia is projected to double by 2051. And all this at a time when money is getting tighter. The NHS is already creaking at the seams, and hospices are feeling the squeeze as it becomes harder to raise money. It isn’t just a case of how we are going to pay for the necessary care, but also who is going to provide it and where?

“One way for hospices to respond would be to focus on our buildings and beds. But that would be putting our heads in the sand, and it would diminish our impact on the bigger story. Only 5% of deaths happen in a hospice, and this proportion will reduce as the number of deaths rises. But times of great challenge are times of great opportunity. What if those with a terminal illness could be supported wherever they are? What if you didn’t have to be in a hospice bed in order to be confident of having a good death?

“At St Luke’s this has become our vision – a community where no person has to die alone, in pain or in distress. We have embraced the concept of ‘hospice without walls’, taking the principles and values of hospice care into every care setting. We launched a crisis team and have embarked on projects to reach out to the homeless community and those in prison.

“We realise that we can’t reach everyone directly, so have invested in education and training for nursing homes and other professionals, and we are collaborating directly with other providers in the region. We are also embracing new technology to find new ways of providing care.

“We also recognise that to achieve anywhere near our vision is going to require the whole community to engage with death and dying, and bring it out of the shadows and the remit of professionals alone. We all have a terminal condition – it is called life! There are already many community groups and individuals supporting those with terminal illness, and we need to support, encourage and multiply them.

“Our hospices are national treasures, but if they are not to become white elephants we need to adapt to the changing environment. And perhaps public perception needs to change a little as well. When we give to, and fundraise for hospices, we need to understand that they represent far more than beds, available to check into should we or our loved ones ever need to – and that that’s okay, because there is so much more at stake here. It is about changing the story for the better for thousands of people every year for whom the reality of a terminal illness crashes in, changing the script of their anticipated future.”


NEWS: Students make a difference

Each February, Student Volunteering Week encourages students to get involved with civic life and make a difference.

Among our student volunteers here at St Luke’s are Plymouth University students Olivia Ridholls, 19, and Georgina Miller, 21. They told us about their roles and what volunteering with our charity means to them.

Second-year business student Olivia said: “I’ve been aware of St Luke’s for a long time as my parents do the Lottery and I’ve seen the branding around the city. When I wanted to give some time to making a difference locally, I knew I couldn’t do better than volunteer with St Luke’s.
“I’m with the Events team within Fundraising one day a week and have a great title – Volunteer Treasure Hunter! This means I’m often on the phone talking to various businesses and encouraging them to support St Luke’s by donating goods for our events. For example, I recently helped by securing 27 barrels of beer from Salcombe Brewery for our Men’s Day Out – that’s 1,950 pints!

“I love the role and it’s a great fit for my business course, too. Since starting at St Luke’s my confidence has really grown, which helped me when I applied for a placement as part of the next stage of my degree. I couldn’t have asked to be with a nicer team, and I would love to come back and continue volunteering here during my final year.”

Georgina, who is studying for a masters degree in brand design and management, said: “I’m mum to my six-year-old son as well as being a student, but I really wanted to volunteer as well because I feel it’s important to give something back.

“I enjoy volunteering with St Luke’s so much that I have not just one role, but two! I started with one day a week in the Drake charity shop in the city centre. Later, through a business networking event at the University, I heard about the opportunity with the Events team and learned a lot more about the various sides of the charity. I joined in June and help in any way that’s needed, from placing signage and stock-taking to briefing other volunteers. I love the variety and the people.

“I’m really proud to be part of St Luke’s and volunteering here is giving me really helpful examples I can use in my coursework, so it’s benefiting my studies too. Working in fundraising is great experience for a marketing career so this is ideal for me, and I know I’m helping a fantastic charity at the same time.”


PR: Making Plymouth a compassionate city

What can you do to make Plymouth a compassionate place for everyone living, studying and working here? That’s the big topic drawing people from across education, the arts, business, health, charities and the voluntary sector to join the conversation at the Compassionate City Conference on 17 May, facilitated by St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth.

As part of Dying Matters Awareness Week (14 – 20 May), the charity is facilitating the event to highlight the positive work already happening across the city while encouraging co-operation and collaboration to address current and future challenges.

According to the Compassionate City Charter for end of life, a compassionate city is a community that recognises that all natural cycles of sickness and health, birth and death, love and loss occur every day across our society. It defines a compassionate community as one that recognises that care for one another at times of crisis and loss is not solely a task for health and social services but is everyone’s responsibility.

Key speakers at the event include Allan Kellehear, Professor of Sociology and Compassionate Care at the University of Bradford and author of ‘Compassionate Cities: Public Health and End of Life Care’, and Tam Martin Fowles, UK Ambassador for the Charter for Compassion International, Hope in the Heart CIC.

In addition, delegates will hear about inspirational case studies, including those relating to St Luke’s work with the homeless and prisoners, and participate in round table discussions to share information, ideas and form actions that can make a difference in any setting, from schools and colleges to places of worship, the workplace, care homes and cafes.

Speaking about the conference, Abenaa Gyamfuah-Assibey, St Luke’s Community Development Worker, said: “We’re proud to be part of this vital conversation, which will encourage the kind of joined-up thinking our city needs to put ideas into action and see positive outcomes that will support everyone at times of difficulty and loss, regardless of their age or background.

“An important part of this – as outlined in the charter – is raising awareness around death and dying, loss and care. It is in communities and workplaces that we need to tackle these ‘taboo’ subjects, and for this to happen we need to work together with everyone who has an interest in having a more open discussion.”

The conference takes place  at Boringdon Park Golf Club from 8.30am to 5pm. Places are £10 per person and can be booked online.