When friends would visit his wife Jeanette, “I’m just going upstairs” was the phrase Jim Tozer had a habit of using after he’d said hello and before he’d slip away to write, record or simply listen to his beloved music. It was typically low-key of the talented yet modest man his family remember with such deep affection.

It was following the return of oesophageal cancer and his choice not to undergo further treatment that Jim came under the care of St Luke’s, with nurse Sonja Pritchard visiting him at home in the last weeks of his life. Home was where he wanted to receive treatment so he could be with Jeanette and daughter Suzy as well as enjoying regular visits from his son and grandchildren.

Sadly, Jim died last October, aged 68, but as Jeanette and Suzy explained on a recent visit to Turnchapel, where they were joined by Sonja and Alison Beavers, the Bereavement Support Volunteer who has been alongside them, it comforts them to know Jim passed away peacefully at home, surrounded by love.

Jeanette said: “Being a nurse meant I was able to care for Jim at home, but when his condition deteriorated and he required specialist help, Sonja was amazing. She was a reassuring presence for us all.”

Listening to Jeanette speak about her husband of 31 years, and hearing from Suzy too, it is clear to see their love for Jim and the depth of loss they feel as they navigate life without him.

While she knew losing Jim would be challenging, Jeanette anticipated that her nursing career would help her cope and that she would be able to return to work shortly after his funeral, which – understandably – has not been the case. She said: “Jim was terminally ill so I knew what was coming, but losing him has been devastating. I miss him so very much.”

Fortunately, thanks to our community’s support for our charity, we are able to offer more than hands-on medical care. We provide emotional, practical and spiritual help that can make an important difference to bereaved people.

So, ever since Jeanette reached out, Alison has been there as a friendly listening ear, giving her the space to share her feelings at the pace that’s right for her.

The two have developed an easy rapport with Alison visiting Jeanette regularly and listening when Suzy needs to talk, too.

Alison said: “Our service is for anyone whose loved one was cared for by St Luke’s whether the death is recent or happened several years ago. People aren’t themselves when they’re bereaved and emotions can sometimes be confusing and distressing. Getting these feelings out into the open is important in helping them come to terms with their loss and move forward. They have the reassurance of knowing everything they tell us will remain confidential, even if we are there to support other members of the family, too.

“It’s been a privilege getting to know Jeanette and Suzy and hearing their memories of Jim. I feel almost as if I knew him.”

These memories include DIY enthusiast Jim using his skills to give Suzy’s bedroom an impressive makeover to welcome the comedian home after she’d been working away, and giving granddaughter Amy a keyboard to nurture her musical talents. Perhaps most moving of all is the memory of Jim’s sheer determination, despite his diminishing health, to make a ‘secret mission’ into town to buy his wife a diamond ring as a sign of his love and gratitude for her devotion to him.

Jeanette said: “Talking with Alison never feels hurried and it helps me remember all the happy times. We’ve listened to Jim’s music, too, which was such a huge part of his life. There are lots of tears but laughter, too, especially remembering his humour. Even when he was really ill, Jim was still joking with the nurses.”

Suzy, too, finds comfort in her precious memories of the man came who into the lives of her and her brother as ‘Uncle Jim’ but very quickly became a loving father. She said: “It was dad who bought me my first joke book, so it’s his fault my career is in comedy. And when I went abroad to work he put his own lyrics to an Elton John track for me – it was so personal and funny that I still sing it in my head.

“I felt so sad when dad was ill, but things would have been so much harder then – and now – without St Luke’s. You can’t put a price on what they provide but it’s why we’re fundraising to give something back. We’ve been so touched at people’s generosity and dad would have been, too.”

Suzy’s Just Giving page has raised £2,300 to date, for which we are very grateful. Thank you to the whole family and everyone else who has shown their support.

Ahead of the South West’s biggest men-only annual charity event on Saturday 28 March, a local man has shared the moving reasons behind his motivation for taking part for the sixth consecutive year.

As is his annual tradition, 50-year-old Martyn Hamley, a carpenter and joiner at Princess Yachts, will be joining workmates Paul Blake, Neil Bailey and Paul Parrish to participate in Men’s Day Out in aid of St Luke’s. The day of banter and rugby includes a 12km sponsored walk that starts at Plymouth Albion RFC and finishes there with a pasty, pint and not-to-be-missed match, after taking in iconic locations in Plymouth, including the Hoe and the Barbican.

As they enjoy the camaraderie of the event and stride the streets raising much-needed funds, Martyn and his colleagues will be remembering their good friend and fellow Princess Yachts employee John Helmore, an exceptional craftsman and talented athlete, who excelled in competitive cycling.

Sadly, John died of cancer in 2015 – aged just 44 – having been looked after by us at our specialist unit in Turnchapel, where the expertise and compassion of our team help people live well to the end of their lives. Taking part in Men’s Day Out, which is sponsored by IU Energy, is the foursome’s way of paying tribute to John and thanking St Luke’s for the dedication with which we cared for him.

John is also remembered by Princess Yachts, where the annual John Helmore Prize for Excellence is awarded to an outstanding member of the team.

Martyn said: “John is greatly missed. My friendship with him went way back to 1986, when we were fresh faced from school and starting our apprenticeships. He stood out from day one because he always gave a hundred per cent to whatever he did, from his work to the sports he loved.

“John was the last person you’d imagine receiving a diagnosis of cancer because he was known for his healthy lifestyle. It just goes to show that none of us know when it might be us in that situation and needing the expert care of St Luke’s. That’s why Men’s Day Out is so important – it’s an opportunity to have a great day with your mates while fundraising for such a fantastic local cause. Everyone is made welcome and there’s a really great atmosphere.”

As in previous years of doing the charity walk, Martyn and his colleagues will take a short detour to sit on John’s memorial bench in Beaumont Park, remember their friend and see how much the silver mountain ash planted in tribute to him has grown since the previous year.

Since 2015, Martyn has raised over £2,500 for St Luke’s to help our service continue making a difference.

John’s sister, Jacqui Dinmore, said: “John was a special man and is missed very much. It is very touching that his friends remember him with such fondness. Taking part in Men’s Day Out year on year is a lovely way for them to remember John while helping ensure St Luke’s support can be there for other families, too.”

Registration for Men’s Day Out is £32, which includes a t-shirt, pasty, pint and entry to the rugby match. Sign up here.

For a small island, it has a big history – as well as an exciting future – so the exclusive opportunity to set foot on Drake’s Island as part of the first organised public tour of the iconic landmark for 30 years is set to spark stiff competition!

We are proud to have been chosen as the beneficiary of funds generated by ticket sales for the event, following a recent visit from Drake’s Island owner, Plymouth-based businessman Morgan Phillips, to our specialist unit at Turnchapel.

Taking place on Sunday 15 March and Wednesday 13 May, just over 100 places are available for the tour of the iconic landmark on each day. Each ticket sold will go towards helping us reach more people who desperately need the specialist service we provide for them and their loved ones at the most vulnerable of times.

Director of Guardian Industrial UK, Morgan Phillips, who bought Drake’s Island last year and plans to restore it for the people of Plymouth and tourists, said: “St Luke’s touches the lives of so many in our city and its surrounding areas, including the families of some of my staff, so I was already aware of the very high quality of the care it provides.

“But when I was invited to the hospice building, where they look after patients with the most complex conditions, I saw for myself the unwavering dedication of the team and their kindness and sensitivity, which really make a difference at such a difficult time.”

Such is the interest that surrounds both the history and the future of Drake’s Island that we are anticipating a high demand for the limited spaces available on the tour.

During it’s fascinating history, the Island – which was born out of the sea 400 million years ago – has been a place of pilgrimage, a refuge, a fort, a prison and an observatory, while local people of a certain age are most likely to remember it as an adventure centre in the 1960s and 70s.

With the site being out of bounds to the general public since 1989, it is a place many long to visit so they can discover its secrets and learn about its past. Those lucky enough to snap up one of the places to visit the historic location will get the opportunity to do just that as they get the lowdown from the Island’s Warden, avid historian Bob King, who will lead the tour.

Bob said: “The best part of my job is researching the history of the Island and sharing it with as many people as possible. Although the fortifications and how they have been used and defended Plymouth over the centuries is fascinating, what brings the history alive are the personal stories of the people on the Island.

“I am really excited to have the chance to take people in Drake’s footsteps and help them discover the Island and its past.”

Among the tales about the Island are those of the garrison being involved in brandy smuggling, Queen Victoria sketching the landmark while her boat was at anchor in Plymouth Sound, and the Devonport High schoolboys who ‘invaded’ in 1957 and claimed the Island for Plymouth. They were arrested by the guard, given breakfast and then taken back to Plymouth for a lesson of double maths!

We are organising the Open Island event as an offshoot of our popular Open Gardens scheme, which sees big-hearted owners of beautiful gardens across Devon and Cornwall open their gates and welcome visitors in aid of our charity throughout spring and summer.

Wayne Marshall, Community Fundraiser and Open Gardens Co-ordinator at St Luke’s, said: “Drake’s Island is an important part of Plymouth’s heritage that has been out of reach to the public for a long time. It’s heart-warming that the strong reputation of our charity has resulted in St Luke’s being selected to offer people this fantastic opportunity to step onto such an historic jewel on the cusp of its exciting regeneration.”

Tickets for the guided tour are £35 (+booking fee) per person, which includes boat transfer. They’re available from 26 February 2020 at 9am at www.stlukes-hospice.org.uk/opengardens. Full terms and conditions are available on the website.

Leaping 15,000 feet from a plane is an exhilarating way to raise funds for our patient care, but what motivates someone to embrace a challenge many would find too daunting?

For nursery worker Rosie Pryce, 23, it is the memory of her much-loved grandad David, who was looked after at Turnchapel before sadly, he died last November, aged 86. Thanks to the outstanding quality of the care David received after he was transferred from hospital to our specialist unit, Rosie is taking on a skydive as her way of thanking our charity for making his last days of life so peaceful and comfortable.

She said: “Grandad was very frail and his condition was deteriorating so he chose not to have anyone visit him at the unit except my grandma Sylvia and their three children, including my dad Kevin. While it was very hard knowing he was so poorly, it was such a comfort hearing from them that he was being looked after by nurses they described as ‘angels’ whose care they said was ‘perfect’.

“I was so reassured to know grandad was in the best possible place for him, with the privacy of a room where grandma could stay by his side day and night. They were childhood sweethearts and married 64 years so spending this precious time together in such an uplifting environment really made a difference to them both at a difficult time.

“The St Luke’s team made sure grandad was pain free, and the nurses were so kind. They turned his bed so he could enjoy the wonderful views out across the water because they heard how he was mad about all things coastal and once owned a boat.

“I have happy memories of days spent with him by the sea, and his love of outdoor swimming was legendary, so it means a lot to know that he could take in a view that was so meaningful to him.”

“When I heard about the opportunity to do a skydive to raise money to give something back to St Luke’s, it really appealed to me. I’m quite a thrill-seeker anyway and felt like I wanted to do something remarkable for grandad because he was such a kind and special person who always had time for me.

“He was a practical joker and that fun-loving side has rubbed off on all our family. Although it’s a big leap, I think the skydive will be great fun so it’s a fitting way to remember grandad and do good for other local families who need the help of St Luke’s.”

Thank you, Rosie – we really appreciate you taking the plunge for our charity!

With people living longer and developing more complex conditions, having GPs who understand end of life care, and do not shy away from difficult but necessary conversations with patients about death and dying, is more important than ever.

Given this, you may be surprised to hear that it is not mandatory for GPs to gain experience within hospice care as part of their training. Rather, it is an option they can select as one of the three rotations they are required to complete on their way to becoming qualified.

Recently, we spoke to Dr Malik Dinata, a trainee GP who has chosen to spend four months on rotation with St Luke’s, to see our service through his eyes and find out how his experience with us will help to prepare him for his career in general practice.

Based within our multidisciplinary clinical team at Turnchapel, Dr Malik has been particularly struck that the time he spends with patients on the ward is unhurried. This means he is able to focus on more than their physical symptoms, getting to know them and their history and finding out about their hopes, expectations and concerns – something that would not be possible within the very pressured environment of acute care.

Dr Malik said: “It is very precious to be able to work with St Luke’s. I get to sit with my patient and practice medicine as it is supposed to be.”

Dealing with death, dying and someone’s last days of life can be one of the most stressful parts of a doctor’s role, and Dr Malik credits the support he receives from his supervisor,

St Luke’s Lead Consultant Dr Jeff Stephenson, and other colleagues, for ensuring he feels ‘safe and comforted’ in a setting many would find very challenging.

He said: “We always touch base before I see a patient so that we can discuss the approach that’s most appropriate for them, and then afterwards colleagues check in with me to ask how it went and how the patient responded.”

On average, a GP surgery has 2,000 patients, with around 20 of them – one per cent – living with terminal illness. To help them be as comfortable and as at ease as possible as they approach the end of their lives, they need the specialist care and support of hospices like St Luke’s, where the help they receive is holistic and tailored specifically to them.

Trainee GPs like Dr Malik, who spend time gaining valuable experience in a hospice setting, are not only more equipped to diagnose accurately and prescribe accordingly, they are more confident having the sensitive yet necessary open conversations about death and dying that help their patient fulfil their wishes about their last months, weeks and days of life.

Dr Jeff said: “Being on rotation with us is a wonderful opportunity for future GPs to gain intensive exposure to looking after people who are terminally ill.

“Importantly, while they’re with us, trainees also learn when to admit a patient to hospital and when it’s more appropriate for them to receive care at home, which is key to avoiding unnecessary admissions.”

Listening to Dr Malik, it is clear that our organisation has made a positive and lasting impression on him that he will carry forward into practice.

He said: “St Luke’s is such a unique environment where people, including the patients themselves, learn to become more accepting of their mortality.

“It’s so important for GPs to know how things should be done. At St Luke’s I’ve seen the ‘gold standard’ and it will benefit my future practice – it will be my point of reference and remind me what I need to do for my patients.

“You don’t gain this type of valuable experience from reading about it in textbooks or hearing about it in lectures. You get it from practice at St Luke’s.”

With this week, being not just the start of the new year but a whole new decade, many will be looking to set goals for themselves or even take on an exciting challenge for 2020 – or beyond!

What better way to push yourself out of your comfort zone than by getting involved in a challenging and exciting event that also benefits your community? We are urging you to put your best foot forward, take a leap or even scale the world’s longest manmade structure to raise funds that ensures care in our community

Today, we have launched not just one but two of our most popular flagship events, Men’s Day Out and Midnight Walk, giving people the chance to celebrate the lives of their lost loved ones while raising much-needed income that helps families make memories together when time is running short.

Men’s Day Out, is loved for the rugby, banter and camaraderie and the unity of walking together raises thousands for St Luke’s. Officially, the region’s biggest men-only sponsored event for charity is back this Saturday 28 March. The event, which is Powered by IU Energy, will see guys gather for a day to remember, striding the city streets before they return to Plymouth Albion RFC for a well-earned pasty and pint and the not-be-missed clash between the home team and their Richmond rivals.

Meanwhile, St Luke’s is inviting ladies to turn Plymouth pink on Saturday 11 July, when its popular Midnight Walk returns. This year, the much-anticipated event, which is sponsored by Nash & Co Solicitors, includes a new challenge – 20 miles for 2020 commencing at 20:20 hrs – in addition to the new 5 and 10-mile routes. That’s not all that’s new, because this year walkers will set off from Home Park (Plymouth Argyle FC) and all will be wearing Midnight Walk’s signature bright pink t-shirts. As always, it promises to be a great night out with the girls, with many walking in memory of loved ones.

Nina Wearne, Community and Events Fundraising Manager at St Luke’s, said: “Whether you take part in Men’s Day Out or Midnight Walk as a personal challenge or to celebrate the life of someone special, please know that St Luke’s could not do what they do without the support from you, our kind-hearted community. Perhaps this is your first time, or maybe it’s an event you enjoy year after year; these events are a fantastic way to have loads of fun whilst making a vital difference for local families.”

For those who’d prefer to take the plunge to show their support for St Luke’s, there are opportunities to take part in an exhilarating skydive on Saturday 21 March sponsored by BT Local Business. The 15,000ft leap is free for those who raise a minimum of £395 in sponsorship.

Looking further ahead – a once-in-a-lifetime challenge – The Great Wall of China Trek is taking place from 6 to 14 November 2021, offering participants an unforgettable adventure. Those who are interested are invited to attend an information evening on Tuesday 11 February 2020 to find out more but don’t hold back as registration is already open.

Nina Wearne said: “As well as being a mesmerising experience hiking along one of the most famous structures in the world, this is an opportunity to soak up China’s vast variations in landscape, culture, wildlife and heritage – not to mention cuisine! It’s a fantastic way to do something different and also make a difference.”

Details of these and all St Luke’s flagship fundraising events are available here.

Martin York, who was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer at the age of 55, has spoken out to urge men to be vigilant in checking for symptoms of the disease and not let embarrassment keep them from getting the simple check-ups that could save their lives. He wants to leave a legacy to the men of the city to help protect their health.

With prostate cancer affecting 1 in 8 men, Martin is passionate about spreading the message that, while the disease tends to occur in those aged over 65, younger men are also at risk and that getting diagnosed early can improve the prognosis for those who have the condition.

Martin said, “I was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer in 2017, and the disease had been doing its worst inside my body for three to four years so I went straight onto chemotherapy. It was very debilitating and I spent most of the next five months in bed.”

A keen Plymouth Argyle FC supporter, Martin was keen to give something back to the club and at their invitation spoke to the players in the dressing room to share his story and help raise awareness of prostate cancer and its symptoms.

He said: “Men don’t like talking about anything below their belts, which is ridiculous. It’s too late for me, but it’s not too late for others. If you’re in any doubt at all, see your GP for a simple check-up.”

Martin, who has been married to Penny for 24 years, came into the care of St Luke’s expert team when he needed help to control his pain and was admitted to the our specialist unit at Turnchapel.

Just as passionate about debunking unhelpful myths around hospice care as he is about urging men to prioritise their health, he said: “I went in not knowing what it would be like, but I was very pleasantly surprised how friendly, light and airy the unit was. It was like a five-star hotel.”

St Luke’s specialist care and support for Martin did not stop when he made the decision to be discharged home. Thanks to the charity’s multidisciplinary At Home team, which looks after half of all the patients St Luke’s sees across Plymouth, South West Devon and East Cornwall, everything was in place to make his transition from the unit as smooth as possible.

Penny said: “A lot of people think that when you go into the hospice building, you’re never coming out again. This couldn’t have been further from the truth for Martin, and it was his choice to come home. The day he returned was remarkable, with all the kit already in place, thanks to St Luke’s occupational therapist Shaen. He made sure Martin had everything that was needed, from easy chairs and hoists to a special bed.

“Martin is a very special man, I will always be grateful to St Luke’s for this gift they’ve given us – Martin at home where he belongs so we can have this precious time together knowing that if we need it, help is just a phone call away. The kindness and sensitivity of the team is making such a difference to us at a really difficult time.

“I am incredibly proud of Martin and want to echo his words to other men: If you have even the slightest concern that something is wrong ‘downstairs’, go straight to see your GP. It could save your life.”

For ‘warm, funny and fearless’ Lynne Roper of Mary Tavy, a paramedic who was passionate about outdoor swimming, ‘passing it down the line’ didn’t need to end at her death. “People can swim and take me with them,” she said.

Lynne did not mean this literally. Living with a brain tumour, she knew her condition was terminal, but she was determined to see the adventures she recorded about her sixty-plus wild swims published to inspire others to swim wild, ‘read water’ and take educated risks as she did.

St Luke’s cared for Lynne at Turnchapel before sadly, she passed away in 2016, and it was while she was in our care she met writer Tanya Shadrick, who she entrusted with her diaries for posthumous publication.

Thanks to Tanya’s tireless editing, the diaries became the book Lynne had envisioned, ‘Wild Woman Swimming – a Journal of Westcountry Waters’. Not only was it published in 2018, following consultation with Lynne’s parents, Mike and Jenny Roper, this year the book went on to be longlisted for the prestigious Wainwright Prize for Nature Writing.

In keeping with Lynne’s wishes, profits from the sale of the book are benefiting St Luke’s, and recently Mike and Jenny, together with Lynne’s brother Dave and her friend Sophie Pierce – who wrote the introduction to the book – visited Turchapel to present our Community Fundraiser Pete Ward with a cheque for £1,000.

Mike and Jenny said: “We will be forever grateful to St Luke’s and all the doctors and nurses for the tremendous, loving care our daughter received in the last six weeks of her life.”

Peter said: “St Luke’s was privileged to care for Lynne in the last weeks of her life, and we are so grateful to her parents for this generous donation that will make a difference to more families who need our help during a very challenging time.”

Wild Woman Swimming’, a ‘book for outdoor swimmers, nature lovers and all who prize the wild and free’, is published by The Selkie Press.

Across Plymouth, South West Devon and East Cornwall, our network of charity shops is supported by a legion of customers snapping up bargains, generating vital income to support our service. But did you know that while many of the items they buy have been donated directly to the shops by our kind-hearted community, a large proportion of stock comes via the hive of activity that is our Distribution Centre at Plympton?

This centralised support centre run by an industrious team of staff and volunteers is crucial to the smooth-running of St Luke’s retail operation, which – as well as 33 charity shops – includes our eBay and Amazon stores that enable us to sell far beyond our surrounding area. Mark Kendall, Logistics and Warehouse Manager, explains what it takes to deliver a distribution service that ensures our customers are never short of quality and choice.

Mark said: “While some of St Luke’s shops are ‘self-sufficient’, receiving a steady stream of goods directly from supporters, the Distribution Centre provides an alternative drop-off point. It’s where our team sifts through thousands of donated items and decides which shops to send them to.

“These not random decisions though – they’re informed by regular information we receive from Area Managers John Saunders and Kerry Hearn and shop managers, who have expert knowledge of what sells best at each store. They know that what’s popular at Modbury, for example, doesn’t necessarily fly off the shelves in Plymouth city centre. We also have portfolios with details of each shop, its location and community demographics, to which the team can refer when they’re sorting donations. This is important because we have a duty to our donors who give us goods, and to our charity itself, to get the best possible price.

“Retail presence online is also key to generating funds, and our charity uses eBay and Amazon to reach a much wider audience, including overseas, to sell donated items that are rare or collectable, such as vintage toys and first-edition books. That’s why the Distribution team includes staff and volunteers who are collectors with a trained eye that helps them spot ‘treasure’ likely to attract a higher price online than in our shops.

“Embracing technology has also enhanced our large-item furniture collection service that’s provided seven days a week to ensure our five shops stocking new and second-hand furniture receive a regular supply.

“Thanks to St Luke’s investment, we now have a telemetry system that enables us to be much more efficient. The drivers of our leased vans are equipped with electronic tablets with in-built sat-navs so that the Retail Admin team knows where they are at any given time and can plan the most efficient routes for them, giving the donors they’re collecting items from an estimated time of arrival. This reduces wait times, helping St Luke’s maintain its excellent reputation. I’m proud that other charities are seeing what we do here as the ‘gold standard’ and aiming to follow our example.

“Innovation is also important when it comes to doing our bit for the environment. Donated items that can’t be sold in our shops are recycled wherever possible because they can still bring in valuable income from the companies who pay us for them. In fact, there’s enough to fill the three 3.5-tonne vehicles that collect from us five days a week! Unsellable items are taken off to recycling plants around the world and we aim to be ethical and avoid them ending up in landfill wherever possible.

“The market for recycling is very volatile though – for example, the price we can get for textiles has dropped ten pence per kilo in the last 12 months – so I keep a close eye on which companies pay best and we use them accordingly. It’s all part of maximising income to build resilience for our charity.”

“There’s much more to what we do at the Distribution Centre than most people realise. We regularly welcome volunteer teams from local companies, who really enjoy it for team-building and it’s great for raising awareness of St Luke’s. We also work with the DWP to help people who’ve been out of work for some time gain new skills and build confidence through volunteering, which can help them go on to find paid employment, including – in three recent cases – with St Luke’s.

“Of course, none of what we do would be possible without such a dedicated team of staff and volunteers rolling up their sleeve’s day in, day out – not just getting things done but doing them to such a high standard. I want to say a big thank you to each and every one of them.”

The launch of the city-wide partnership showed how aspiration is being turned into action across Plymouth, benefitting people at end of life.

Back in May 2018, at the Plymouth: a Compassionate City conference hosted by St Luke’s and attended by organisations ranging from schools and places of worship to solicitors and voluntary groups, keynote speaker Professor Allan Kellehear threw down a challenge to those present, saying: “Every day, people die and hearts are broken. Death and dying are more than medical issues and caring for those affected is not just the role of the doctor and the chaplain. End of life care is everyone’s responsibility and we all have a practical role to play.”

This rallying call to build on the good work already happening across Plymouth to make our city a more compassionate place for people at end of life, and those caring for them, was met with overwhelming support. So, nearly 18 months on, at the launch of the End of Life Compassionate City Charter Professor Kellehear urged Plymouth to adopt, it was an opportunity to see how groups and organisations have been working together, turning aspiration into action so that no-one feels left behind.

Having a city-wide end of life network working in partnership with the City Council, as well as other public bodies and local charities, is already beginning to ensure that Plymouth is a city that does not shy away from the ‘taboo’ subjects of death, dying and bereavement but talks openly about them. In fact, Plymouth has the accolade of being recognised at England’s first Compassionate City, but this is just the beginning.

The Compassionate City initiative is being led and co-ordinated by Gail Wilson, Deputy Director of Clinical Services at St Luke’s. Gail said: “Across the city and the wider communities there are many examples of individuals and groups going the extra mile to support people during times of sickness, bereavement and loss, from providing a listening ear to helping with practical things such as walking the dog and collecting shopping.

“I have been amazed by what various organisations and individuals across the city have achieved in the past 18 months, with the support of the compassionate community team at St Luke’s . This is a really a great start but there is much more to do, so I would encourage anybody who wants to be involved to sign up to the network and join us, so together we can create compassionate networks where we live and work so that no-one at end of life or experiencing bereavement and loss feels isolated or alone.”

Steve Statham, Chief Executive of St Luke’s, said: “We have a key role to play in supporting our community and networks in times of crisis and loss. This charter is about how we can work together towards extending the support we give to people at a most difficult time in their life”.

Ruth Harrell, Director of Public Health for Plymouth, said: “By taking a public health approach to end of life care, we can give a voice to all those affected by death, dying, bereavement and loss and work together to create a city that does not shy away from their needs but provides a compassionate collective response.”