If the past turbulent year has taught us anything, it’s just how quickly life can change and the dramatic impact this can have on us and the people we hold dear. That’s why as well as reminding people about the importance of having a will, we’re stressing how crucial it is to keep its content updated so that your loved ones will be protected after you’ve gone.

Launching our Make a Will Month campaign (1 – 31 May) in partnership with local solicitors, St Luke’s is highlighting the good sense of making sure your will keeps pace with the significant changes in your life, such as buying a home, getting married, starting a family, getting divorced or the death of your partner.

In support of the campaign, which raises vital funds to help our charity continue providing compassionate care for terminally ill people across Plymouth and surrounding areas, 10 community-spirited solicitors are waiving the fee they would normally charge for making and updating wills in return for a donation to St Luke’s. We give our specialist care and support free of charge to the many local families who rely on our service, but with less than a third of our funding coming from the NHS we are reliant on the generosity of supporters to continue our vital role.

Spearheading St Luke’s Make a Will Month campaign is our Head of Fundraising Penny Hannah, who knows first-hand how life can change overnight and how keeping your will current can help bring peace of mind.

Penny said: “I think it was learning at an early age that nothing in life is certain that made me feel I always want to be as prepared as I can be for whatever lies ahead. I was just 14 when my father died suddenly, and I had to grow up fast. Losing dad was incredibly hard, and my older siblings and I became a rock for my mum.

“I started work as soon as I could so that there was enough money coming in, taking a cleaning job after school at 14 and going into the world of retail, where I quickly worked my way up. By the age of 23 I was a store manager for a national retail chain and had my own home, but it was marriage and the birth of my first daughter, Amber, that was the catalyst for me deciding to get organised and make a will. I remember, very clearly, wanting to know she would be provided for if history repeated itself and she lost me young in life the way I lost my dad. When my then-husband and I made our wills, we included our choice of legal guardians for her, something we updated a few years later when our second daughter, Ruby, was born.

“Since then, life has taken many unexpected twists and turns, as it does for most people. Following the breakdown of my marriage and subsequent divorce, which led to a new chapter in my life, I knew it was important that I should rewrite my will. The next part of my story is a fairytale. I met my prince, Andrew, and when we married our two families became one bigger one of seven. We have shifted careers and moved home, and as a couple we have agreed to keep our wills current so that our loved ones are provided for, no matter what happens.

“Before the pandemic we enjoyed foreign holidays, and we hope to again when it’s safe to travel. Every time we go away, we feel we can truly relax because we know our affairs are in order should the worst happen. We’ve recently become grandparents for the first time, so life has shifted again in another wonderful way.

“While I understand that it may not be uppermost in people’s minds at the moment with everything else that is going on, I can’t stress enough how having an up-to-date will can help free you to enjoy living in the moment. It is one of the kindest things you can do for the people who matter most to you, making what can be a traumatic time for them that bit easier.”

Details of the solicitors taking part in St Luke’s Make a Will Month can be found here, or call 01752 492626 for more information. Appointments can be made for May or for later in the year, and there is the option to meet with a solicitor online or in person.

A 30-year career spanning both clinical and non-clinical roles with St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth has given Paula Hine a unique perspective on the organisation and how it has evolved in order to survive in an increasingly tough climate.

Reflecting on her long career with the charity, Paula, who has recently been appointed Interim Head of Education at St Luke’s, said: “When I first walked through the doors of the specialist unit Turnchapel all those years ago, little did I imagine where my experience of looking after terminally ill patients on the ward would lead me.

“I grew up in nearby Tavistock and my early nursing career started locally at South Hams Hospital, where I did a bit of everything, but over time my interest in caring for people at end of life grew and this was the area I was keen to focus on. It appealed to me because of the ethos of holistic care, which led to me keeping an eye out for a job at St Luke’s.

“When I joined in 1991, the organisation was much smaller than it is today. The focus was on Turnchapel, where as well as inpatient care we also had a day hospice.

“At that time, nursing was still very traditional and even Florence Nightingale-ish in its hierarchy. The Doctor and Matron were in charge and we wore frilly hats which served no purpose! Thankfully, the hats wouldn’t be allowed now because of greater focus on infection control, but I still smile at the memory.

“St Luke’s did not have the wider support services we have today, except for admin for the clinical team, some educational provision and a small facilities team. In those days, we had no fundraising team as such but lots of eager volunteers. On the community care side, we worked with Macmillan and Marie Curie nurses – this being the roots of the service we have now, looking after patients at home – but we were yet to have a team at the hospital, something which did not develop until around 15 years later.

“I could always see that St Luke’s was keen to innovate and fluid enough to respond to the changing needs of patients, and when I developed an interest in increasing our provision for our patients with lymphoedema (a chronic condition that causes swelling in the body’s tissues), I was pleased to be encouraged to investigate the best way of doing this.

“Looking outside, and even travelling overseas, to learn about best practice enabled me to build a case for us to go from the massage therapy and bandaging that I already did for our patients, pushing a trolley around the ward, to extending the treatment – which can make such a positive difference to someone’s quality of life – so that it benefitted people at an earlier stage of their illness as well as those who were already inpatients. The funding we secured also helped us provide lymphoedema treatment for people with a non-cancer diagnosis, such as vascular- related oedema. It felt really rewarding to build the Lymphoedema Service from the ground up and develop it into the very busy clinic it became with a team of three.

“One of the best parts of the job was the rapport I developed with the people who came regularly for treatment, but this meant it was also very hard when they died because it does take an emotional toll. After ten years, I felt the time was right for me to step back from giving hands-on care, and this happened to coincide with an opening at St Luke’s for someone with the right experience to lead and grow the education we were already providing to our own staff and district nurses to help them fulfil their clinical competencies.

“The service started with me helping nurses with their clinical skills, such as infection control, tracheostomies and ‘drips and drains’, and grew into a team under the banner of HR. Gradually, links grew with the University, and the first module I developed was a bespoke assessment skills module for our Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) team, which along with other external courses helped to generate income for St Luke’s. When Gail Wilson arrived as Head of Education, she used her expertise and strategic approach to take this to the next level, developing a really innovative service involving a wide range of funded education projects, including education for care homes. About the same time, Liz Lawley joined the Education team, bringing experience of a Six Steps Care Home programme from Cumbria, which we introduced here, adapting it to include education end of life care for people with dementia and learning disabilities.

“Of course, as well as all the changes there have been in the Education team and the service we provide, so many years with St Luke’s means I have witnessed the evolution of the organisation as a whole, observing the way it has flexed to survive in a way that, sadly, some hospices have not been able to.

“I’ve seen connections, collaborations and partnerships grow, and huge expansion in retail and fundraising. What really continues to hearten me though, is our charity’s continued focus on meeting the needs of our patients. I remember the years when we first started looking after patients with non-cancer conditions, such as AIDS, and I have seen younger people needing our care, including those with brain tumours or motor neurone disease.

“While of course there is sadness because of the nature of our service, there is definitely more laughter than tears and, when I look back on my career so far – and the colleagues who have been there along the way – it is definitely with a smile.”

 

Captain Tom 100 invites people all over the world to take on a challenge based around the number 100 to raise funds for charity.

Following the outpouring of heartfelt messages since the death of Captain Sir Tom Moore on 2 February, his family pledged to celebrate his life with an event that everyone, in the UK and around the world, could be involved in. That event is the Captain Tom 100 and St Luke’s is proud to be inviting our supporters to take part.

Captain Tom 100 offers St Luke’s supporters, of all ages and abilities, the opportunity to raise crucial funds for our charity, while at the same time celebrating Captain Tom’s generosity of spirit, the hope and joy he brought to millions, and his sense of fun.

How it works

It’s so simple. All participants need to do is dream up a Captain Tom 100 challenge based around the number 100 and do it at any time and anywhere over Captain Tom’s birthday weekend – starting on Friday 30 April through to Bank Holiday Monday 3 May.

The challenge could be walking 100 steps or running 100 metres, scoring 100 goals, baking 100 cakes, climbing 100 stairs, hopping 100 laps of the garden, building 100 sandcastles, writing a 100-word poem, flipping 100 pancakes – anything at all, inside or out.

Once supporters have chosen their challenge, they can fundraise or donate to St Luke’s, and share their 100 on social media, using #CaptainTom100.

Captain Tom’s daughter, Hannah Ingram-Moore, said: “We are so grateful for the incredible support we have received since my father started his record-breaking fundraising walk and that his message of hope was shared with the world. Captain Tom was very proud to be able to leave behind the growing legacy of his Foundation. We know he would love the idea of inviting everyone to get involved and share their Captain Tom 100 so that together we can ensure ‘Tomorrow will be a good day’. We look forward to celebrating with you on what would have been his 101st birthday weekend – it’s going to be fun!”

Find out more at CaptainTom100.com.

Image reads we need you in your old st luke's t-shirt. Picture included photos of St Luke's supporters and a St Luke's runner.

We need you to run in your old St Luke’s t-shirt!

You runners do a fantastic job of keeping St Luke’s close to your hearts, and it makes us beam with pride when we see you clocking up the miles sporting our charity’s name across your chest.

This year, we’re inviting you to run Britain’s Ocean City Half, 10km or 5km (5 September) wearing your favourite St Luke’s t-shirt from yesteryear, from Midnight Walk and Tour de Moor to Men’s Day Out. Join in and be part of an active archive of colours and designs that highlight our compassionate care for thousands of local families through the years.

It may be faded or even fraying, but putting it on feels like getting a hug from a much-loved friend. Perhaps the back of your t-shirt is emblazoned with the name of that special person whose life you want to celebrate as you run for us again? We’d love to see you taking part in their memory, and the sponsorship you raise will help us keep our vital service running for the many families in your community who will desperately need us in the months and years to come.

Contact us today to get started!

Image of artist Brian Pollard holding a bright landscape painting. Text reads: Open Gardens, win this painting by Brian Pollard.

Image of artist Brian Pollard holding a bright landscape painting. Text reads: Open Gardens, win this painting by Brian Pollard.

 

A local hospice charity is marking the return of one of its most popular annual fundraising events by inviting people to enter an online competition for the chance to win an original painting by internationally acclaimed, Plymouth-based artist Brian Pollard.

Brian has donated the captivating land and seascape to St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth, of which he is a Patron, to help the charity launch its Open Gardens scheme for this spring and summer, following a hiatus to the event last year because of Covid-19 safety restrictions. The charming image also features on the cover of the flyer promoting the scheme, which sees kind-hearted owners of beautiful gardens across Devon and Cornwall throw open their gates in aid of St Luke’s and its specialist end of life care for local people with terminal illness.

Brian, who works from his Plymouth studio and regularly shares his new work on Instagram, enjoys visiting the gardens each year with his wife Jane. He said: “As a former GP, I know just how needed St Luke’s is and the important difference it makes to local families at a very tough time. The Open Gardens scheme is one of the most enjoyable and inspiring ways people can show their support for the charity and help build its resilience for the future, and I’m delighted to be able to help by donating my painting as a competition prize.

“In it, I chose to highlight the beauty of the South Hams because St Luke’s care extends beyond Plymouth to people living the rural surrounding areas, and the waves on the sea are a reminder of the therapeutic power of the water that surrounds our coast.”

This year’s Open Gardens season gets underway on 18 April with the opening of Lower Coombe Royal, near Kingsbridge, where 8 acres of gardens and woodland await visitors. Next to open, on 21 April, is Weir Cottage near Bere Alston, which was originally owned by gardener and artist Lady Harriet Thiselton-Dyer, wife of the third curator of Kew gardens. This will be followed on 25 April by country house Gnaton Hall, near Yealmpton, where visitors can discover stunning terraced lawns and walled gardens as well as peaceful woodland walks.

With more gardens set to be added to the programme over coming weeks, St Luke’s is also introducing a special event likely to appeal to young families in particular – its first-ever Open Farm, kindly sponsored by NFU Mutual. On 4 August, South Battisborough Farm, on the road to Mothecombe Beach, will welcome visitors in aid of the charity, giving them the opportunity to see a working farm in action, with cows being milked, calves being fed with a maize maze and the opportunity to try their delicious Surfing Cow ice cream.

Also new is St Luke’s online booking system for Open Gardens and Open Farms, which has replaced the pay in-person on the day process of previous years. Tickets, which are £5 per adult, can be purchased here, where there are details of all the locations taking part in this year’s scheme.

Wayne Marshall, St Luke’s Community Fundraiser and Open Gardens Co-ordinator, said: “It’s exciting to be back with another diverse selection of beautiful gardens to inspire and delight visitors, and the addition of our first Open Farm makes this year’s scheme extra special. We’re really grateful to the garden and farm owners for taking part and to the many volunteers who roll up their sleeves to help at each event.

“Our new online booking system is easy to access and straightforward to use, and very importantly it means we can manage visitor numbers for each event in a Covid-safe way.

“We can also easily update event information if, for any reason, details change. This is particularly helpful at the moment given the ongoing uncertainty of what may or may not happen as lockdown restrictions ease.

“I want to encourage people to check our website regularly as we will be adding new gardens and farms over the next few weeks and months. It is also on our website that they can enter our exciting competition to win the painting Brian has so kindly donated. We are very grateful to him for his ongoing support for St Luke’s.”

Funds raised from ticket sales and the competition will help St Luke’s continue to give personalised care to terminally ill people in their last months, weeks and days of life, providing crucial emotional support for them and their families, too.

You’re never too old to make new best friends – as Margaret Davies, Ena Powell and Mollie Hodges can all testify!

Strangers to each other when first admitted to our specialist unit in March, in a matter of days these lovely ladies in their 80s and 90s formed such a strong and joyous bond on the ward that they quickly became known to themselves – and us – as our very own Golden Girls. And, just as with the lead characters in the hit TV show of the 80s, the chemistry between them is sparkling.

While each of our terrific trio has been receiving St Luke’s care to help relieve their pain, they have found comfort that goes way beyond the physical, thanks to the empathy and affection between them – not to mention the infectious humour they share. All of which has not only lifted their spirits at a difficult time but brought reassurance to their families that they’re being looked after in a safe, supportive environment where there is more laughter than tears.

Mollie, from Peverell, said: “I came in not wanting any further treatment, and these ladies who I call best friends have convinced me to have it. For the nurses to know we would gel so well together, they must be telepathic!“

Margaret, a former teacher at Dunstone Primary School who lives in Elburton, said: “Never did I think a hospice could feel so heavenly. St Luke’s has taken the fear out of cancer – they’ve got all my treatment right and I’m no longer in pain, but it’s so much more than that. Thanks to the fantastic staff and Ena and Mollie, it’s been a happy time. There’s been so much laughter – they’ve had me in stitches!”

Ena, who has since returned to her home said: “I was apprehensive about coming into a hospice. I never thought I would make such incredible friendships. That moment of having the photo taken of us all together in the hospice grounds overlooking the sea is one I will cherish forever.”

Losing a loved one is always really difficult. We understand how important it is for you to be able to remember your lost loved one, whether they were cared for by St Luke’s or not, and we realise more than ever that when someone special has died, it is powerful and precious memories that bring comfort and help us continue to feel connected to them.

With this in mind, we would like to share a story with you about Scott, a volunteer and friend who played a huge part in our Fundraising Team and will forever be in our hearts.

We were first graced with Scott’s presence back in 2018 when he applied to become a volunteer within the Fundraising Team, after being diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. His expertise and skills in sales and marketing made him the perfect candidate and a vital asset to our team. He threw himself into everything a hundred percent, particularly our Men’s Day Out event as he was very well connected within the brewing industry.

He was a joy to have around, telling stories and speaking so fondly in the office of his three girls, ‘Mrs Prideaux and the Pridettes’, Sarah and his two daughters Alex and Olivia.

Remembering Dad

“Dad’s volunteering at St Luke’s was his complete saviour. It gave him structure and the ability to help others, which in life was his ultimate mission. The role unintendedly was built for him, was flexible around his needs, gave him a focus and became a massive part of his life, which he lived to the full.

“He was always such an outgoing and sociable person who knew and remembered everyone. Wherever we were, he would always see somebody he knew – even abroad in Portugal, where he bumped into an old friend and insisted on having lunch together. He was so supportive and always wanted the best for us.

“We were used to hospital visits with Dad, but our world was turned upside down when he was admitted during the first lockdown last year. The support from the St Luke’s team who co-ordinated his treatment at the hospital was a real source of comfort to him, particularly when there were multiple departments involved. The doctors and nurses became both ours and Dad’s friends, and because visiting became challenging due to the pandemic, what we couldn’t provide was there from St Luke’s.

“Life’s just not as fun without Dad around. We really miss him – it’s like a light has gone out, but we find that talking about our memories together makes him still feel present in our lives.

“To us, St Luke’s isn’t just a charity looking after poorly people in a hospice. It’s about a community coming together, and our community went above and beyond.”

How you can get involved

This Spring, we would like to invite you to dedicate a sunflower in our virtual garden in memory of someone you’ve lost. Radiating cheer and symbolising longevity, we have chosen sunflowers as they capture the nature of the memories we treasure of the special people no longer with us – heart-warming, comforting and enduring.

Share your favourite picture or your sunniest story – all while knowing that you are helping us continue to provide our support to families in the community- now and in the future.

As a thank you for your donation, we will send you a packet of sunflower seeds so you can grow your own flowers as a symbol of remembrance. You can use the seeds from the beautiful flower to grow them year on year, and as you see them bloom in your garden, we hope you will recollect beautiful memories.

 

We are dedicated to looking after terminally ill people of all backgrounds, so we are piloting a scheme to enhance its end of life care for patients who have given service to their country in the armed forces.

The End of Life Military Compassion project recently launched by St Luke’s will help ensure the community is a kinder place for both current military personnel and veterans whose time is running short, and for their families, too.

With grant funding from the Armed Forces Covenant, the initiative has evolved from our collaboration with Plymouth City Council and other local organisations which established Plymouth as England’s first Compassionate City for people at end of life and those who care for them.

Recognising that patients from military backgrounds tend to feel better understood, and more at ease, when the care and support they receive acknowledges the service they have given their country, and the language and routines with which they are familiar, we are dedicating some of our own resources to help better identify those patients who would benefit.

Understanding, too, that receiving a terminal diagnosis can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness, we are using the grant to recruit volunteers from military backgrounds, providing them with bespoke training so that they are equipped to give befriending support to terminally ill current and former servicemen and women and their families.

Many of St Luke’s own highly skilled staff come from military families or have themselves served in the armed forces. As well as harnessing their knowledge and experience to develop the pilot project, we have drawn on the expertise of charities dedicated to supporting current and former forces personnel, including the Plymouth Veterans and Families Hub, the Royal British Legion, SSAFA and Help for Heroes, all of whom welcome the initiative.

George Lillie, Director of Clinical Services and Deputy Chief Executive of St Luke’s, said: “We work with our community, in partnership with others, to achieve dignity, comfort and choice for people affected by life-limiting illnesses. The service we provide is about so much more than hands-on medical care – it is about getting to know our patients so that we can focus on what matters most to them, helping them make the most of their time with loved ones.

“We know that people respond best when they feel listened to and understood, and we are committed to doing all that we can to ensure this. The Armed Forces Covenant grant will help us meet the specific needs of terminally ill military staff and veterans, and their families. We will also share our learning with other organisations throughout the communities we serve across Plymouth and surrounding areas so that these patients feel better supported by all in the last months, weeks and days of their lives.”

Plymouth’s Mark Ormrod, the former Royal Marine Commando who sustained life-changing injuries while serving in Afghanistan and is now an internationally acclaimed motivational speaker, performance coach and award-winning author, is a patron of St Luke’s.

Championing the End of Life Military Compassion project, Mark said: “I have such respect for the team at St Luke’s, who always give their care with such kindness and sensitivity. Knowing that they are going the extra mile for forces families by developing their service in a way that is bespoke for them is fantastic. Not only will this help ensure terminally ill military men and women feel recognised for their service and die with dignity, but that their loved ones are better supported, too.”

For further information, please contact us on 01752 964250 or email education@stlukes-hospice.org.uk.

St Luke’s nurse, James, is taking his compassion for terminally ill patients to new heights, leaping from a plane to raise funds for the specialist hospice care that ensures they live well to the end of their lives.

On Sunday 25 April Clinical Nurse Specialist James Mills, part of our team team based at University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust, is taking part in an exhilarating sponsored tandem skydive from 15,000ft.

Recognising the impact of the pandemic on the vital income we would normally have generated through our charity shops and mass fundraising events, such as Men’s Day Out and Tour de Moor, James – who lives in Tavistock – has been motivated to strap on a parachute and make the giant jump to help make a difference beyond the hospital walls. The money he raises will support our service for patients throughout the communities of Plymouth and surrounding areas, including Tavistock, where he lives with his family.

Working across the wards of UHP NHS Trust, James and the rest of the St Luke’s team based there provide specialist advice and support for patients with progressive life-limiting illnesses. They are there to give emotional support and practical advice to these patients and to their families and carers, too, as well as delivering education in specialist end of life care to doctors and nurses across the hospital.

For many months of the Covid-19 crisis, James and his teammates at the hospital worked tirelessly alongside their NHS colleagues on the frontline so that patients dying from complications of the virus got the high-calibre compassionate end of life care they needed.

Watching James from the ground and cheering him on when he makes his fundraising freefall will be his partner Katherine and two children, ten-year-old Tom and Grace, aged six.

James said: “St Luke’s touches the lives of many local families, but what some people might not realise is that as an independent charity we rely heavily on the support we receive from our community. It makes a crucial difference because without it we couldn’t do as much for patients and their loved ones who rely on our service when they’re going through the toughest of times.

“Doing a skydive has long been on my bucket list and I’m really proud to be doing it for such a fantastic cause.”

Anyone wanting to donate can do so via James’s JustGiving fundraising page here.

Those who, like James, want to experience the unforgettable thrill of a tandem skydive in aid of St Luke’s, are invited to sign up for the challenge on 19 June or 12 September. You can do the jump for free when you raise sponsorship of £395 or more. Sign up here.

A Kingsbridge man, passionate about protecting the specialist service that ensures local people with terminal illness receive the high-quality care they need – and deserve – at the end of their lives, has taken up a new voluntary role with the charity carrying out this vital work.

Colin Pincombe has recently been appointed Impact Volunteer Partner with St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth. He is now sending out a rallying call to all like-minded people in the South Hams, asking them to join him in giving some of their spare time to help revitalise local recognition for the charity and build its resilience for the years to come.

Colin has had a long career in business, chairing NHS Trusts and, more recently, as a Trustee of Rowcroft Hospice. He is currently Chair of South Hams Hospital League of Friends.

St Luke’s is committed to caring for patients in the place that’s right for them, which for many is in the comfort of their own homes. Not only does this enable them to stay close to their loved ones, it reduces the need for them to travel into Plymouth for hospital treatment. This is of even greater importance for people living in isolated rural areas, where accessing all kinds of services can be more difficult. St Luke’s covers the whole of the South Hams district except Chillington to Dartmouth, which is served by Rowcroft Hospice.

While the hospice gives tailored care and support to patients and their families at no cost to those who receive it, this service does not come cheap to the charity. With people living longer and with more complex conditions, referrals are growing year on year, which increases pressure on its limited resources.

As an independent charity, St Luke’s relies on donations and fundraising from the communities it serves so that no-one who needs expert, compassionate care at the end of their life has to miss out. The pandemic has meant a particularly uncertain year for the hospice, with its income impacted by the temporary closure of its charity shops as well as the postponement of its mass participation events, such as Midnight Walk, until safer times.

Speaking about his new voluntary role with St Luke’s, Colin said: “The economic climate is only going to get tougher for everyone, including charities, so if we want to have the assurance that St Luke’s can continue serving our communities in the years ahead, now is the time for us to take action and show our support.

“That’s why I’m asking fellow South Hams residents from all walks of life to join me in spreading awareness of St Luke’s in our local area with a view to raising funds and recruiting volunteers to ensure the sustainability of the charity. I believe that together, we can make an important difference for our community.”

Penny Hannah, Head of Fundraising at St Luke’s, said: “Many people naturally associate the name St Luke’s with Plymouth but in fact our team is on the road 365 days a year, including across the South Hams, so that people living and dying with terminal illness know they have not been forgotten.

“I am delighted Colin has joined St Luke’s as Impact Volunteer Partner. He brings with him a great deal of valuable experience in the healthcare sector as well as an understanding of the pressures facing our charity, making him a real asset. We are tremendously grateful to him for getting behind St Luke’s to help us be here for local families for generations to come.”

Due to the pandemic, no meetings will take place in person until it is safe to do so, but to register your interest in joining Colin in giving a little spare time to support the vital work of St Luke’s in your local area, please email him at cpincombe@stlukes-hospice.org.uk or call St Luke’s on 01752 492626.