Hot and sunny with hundreds of smiling faces, 22 May 2018 was definitely a day to remember and cherish – and not just for HRH Prince Charles in whose honour a special garden party was thrown at Buckingham Palace.

There to enjoy the event, which marked his 70th birthday this November, were five representatives of St Luke’s, one of the charities selected to attend the prestigious occasion because they are close to the heart of the Prince. Members of staff Frankie Dee, Carolyn Taylor and Anne Adams, and volunteers Dazzle Tighe and Leland Johnston, were nominated by managers to attend.

Not only did their selection mean a lot to them, they were able to share together the excitement of being part of the special celebration.

Speaking about the day, Anne, who has worked at St Luke’s for nearly 27 years, said, “Walking up to the Palace gates felt a bit surreal. The atmosphere was wonderful and it was lovely to be among the many different types of charities there.

“It was so nice to dress up for an occasion like this that you’re probably not going to get the opportunity to go to again. We got to see parts of the Palace not many get to see, and even caught a few glimpses of Prince Harry and Meghan in the distance.

“It was extremely warm and we were on our feet a lot, but nothing could take away from what an amazing day it was.”

Dazzle, who has been volunteering with us for ten years – on reception at Turnchapel and as a befriender – said, “It was an honour to be one of those chosen to attend, and very exciting.

“I think everyone there felt special, and the atmosphere was great. We were so well looked after by Palace staff, and we were close enough to see Charles and Camilla. The day was made even more memorable for me by my son being there, too. He was representing Wells Cathedral School, he will be Headmaster from this September, and it was lovely that we could meet up on such an occasion.”

We’re glad you all enjoyed your special day!

When it comes to kindness, compassion and sensitivity, Janet Hearl has more than enough for one charity. Part of the St Luke’s team for nine years, working as a Social Care Assistant and providing bereavement support, she has also been giving her time and using her skills with Jeremiah’s Journey, a local charity for grieving children, young people and families.

So, it was wonderful to see Janet win Health and Wellbeing Volunteer of the Year – sponsored by Livewell Southwest – at the recent Inspiring Lives Plymouth Awards, recognising those who consistently put the needs of others before their own.

Nominated by Jeremiah’s Journey for the difference she has made by coming alongside youngsters as they face the loss of a parent, Janet was very touched to receive the nomination – and completely bowled over to win! There to see it was proud husband Phil, who accompanied her to the awards ceremony at the Theatre Royal.

Janet said: “It was a shock! A lovely one though, and the award means a lot to me. The trophy is in pride of place at home, next to flowers sent to me by my son and daughter when they heard.”

She provides vital support as part of Stepping Stones run by Jeremiah’s Journey. This ten-week programme is for both children and parents, supporting them through their very difficult time, encouraging open conversations and making special memories, all of which can help the children process what’s happening and come to terms with their loss over time.

Janet said: “Understandably, young people facing bereavement can feel frightened and sometimes they blame themselves for what’s happening. Stepping Stones provides a supportive environment, and activities – such as felt-making with students from Plymouth College of Art – help them and their parents talk through issues and challenges. Importantly, Stepping Stones gives them space, as well as the opportunity to make memories together and with others taking part.

“It’s really rewarding to be part of something that makes a difference, and wonderful when they tell us they feel lighter and have made connections that can help sustain them as they move forward.”

Congratulations, Janet – you’re an inspiration!

An ‘amazing and ‘gentle’ midwife who passed away in March this year after a brave battle with cancer is being remembered by colleagues as they band together to raise money for St Luke’s.

Charlotte D’Alessio, who died the day after her 51st birthday, had worked at Derriford Hospital for almost two decades.

St Luke’s was there to provide care and support for Charlotte and her family, and her colleagues have already raised over £1,200 for our charity.

On 21 July they will come together to take part in our popular Neon Midnight Walk in memory of much-loved Charlotte.

Read more courtesy of Plymouth Live |

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“You will let me stay here, won’t you?”

Many of us buy the Big Issue or help homeless people by taking part in a soup run, but when it comes to being homeless at the end of life… what then?

At St Luke’s, we believe everyone should be able to access specialist care when time is running short, regardless of their background and circumstances.

That’s why we’ve been working with George House hostel in Plymouth, where we helped enable a long-term resident – aged 54 – to end his days in the place he considered home.

For a homeless person to be able to die, like Iain, in a place of their choice with medical support on hand is still rare.

You can read more about the challenges involved, and the difference we’re helping to make by working in partnership, in this Big Issue article.

Our amazing volunteers are at the heart of St Luke’s and the services we provide. We appreciate them every day and this national Volunteers’ Week (1 – 7 June 2018), we want to say an extra big thank you to them all for the difference they make.

We spoke with volunteers across our community to gain more insight into the work they do, what motivates them and what they gain in return. As we’re sure you’ll agree, they’re a real inspiration!

Find out more about volunteering opportunities at St Luke’s.

Imagine combining the trip of a lifetime with the opportunity to make a difference both here in Plymouth and in one of the world’s poorest countries – that’s the opportunity St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth is offering those who want to push their boundaries physically and mentally and use their skills to help global hospice care.

The charity’s Malawi Challenge 2019 combines an exciting physical challenge with helping people in the country known as the ‘warm heart of Africa’, while raising vital funds for the compassionate care St Luke’s gives and the special memories the organisation creates every day for patients and their families when time is short.

The eight-day challenge includes a two-day climb up majestic Mulanje Mountain – with the opportunity to run part of the route for those wanting to push themselves even harder – and visits to rural home-based clinics, as well as enjoying some of Africa’s most breath-taking scenery and wildlife.

Famously friendly, Malawi is one of Africa’s most beautiful countries, but it is also one of its poorest, with 60 per cent of its people earning less than 93 pence a day.

Participants in the challenge (6 – 13 April 2019) will see a different side to Africa and meet dedicated, passionate and inspiring people committed to delivering healthcare in a challenging, cripplingly under-resourced environment. It is an opportunity for people from a wide variety of backgrounds and professions to pool their skills for the benefit of Malawians in need of their help.

One of the first to get on board with the challenge is intrepid Ann Brady, who celebrates her 70th birthday this December.

A nurse with 50 years’ experience, Ann is widely travelled and has trekked the Great Wall of China but has never been to Malawi. She is keen to use her nursing skills to benefit those living in the cripplingly poor country, where life expectancy is low.

Ann, who was Marie Curie Nurse of the Year in 2006 and lives in Worcester, said: “A good friend works at St Luke’s and having heard all about the fantastic care the team gives, I’ve been inspired to sign up for this amazing challenge.

“I’m really looking forward to meeting people from all backgrounds with knowledge and skills they can use generously to make a difference, whether they’re health-related or in another area.

“We’ll all come with different experience but share a common goal to help in whatever way we can. It’s also a great opportunity to see stunning scenery, and I’m looking forward to extending my stay so that I can enjoy a safari.”

While those from a medical or social work background can support or offer training workshops to Malawi’s Palliative Care Support Trust Blantyre, which provides palliative care for children and adults through clinics and home visits, those from different backgrounds can use their skills to support other organisations, such as those focussing on education, law and women’s rights.

Speaking about the challenge, Penny Hannah, Head of Fundraising at St Luke’s, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity – not only for the amazing trip and all the wonderful memories it will create but for people to share their skills, any skills they have, and work with Malawians within the healthcare and community care system.

“Everyone who takes part will be pushing their boundaries physically and mentally, joining a team committed to supporting global hospice care, and really giving something back at home and in the warm heart of Africa as an incredible global compassionate citizen.”

Those taking part in the challenge have the opportunity to extend their stay and enjoy activities such as scuba diving and kayaking at Lake Mulanje – or can simply relax in a hammock and take in the stunning surroundings. They can also travel into Zambia, Mozambique, Tanzania or South Africa.

More information about the Malawi Challenge 2019 is available here.

In our ambition to be a ‘Hospice without Walls’, taking our compassionate end of life care to more people regardless of their circumstances, we have been reaching through the walls of Dartmoor Prison to look after inmates facing their last days – and have won prestigious national recognition for our pioneering project!

As finalists in the Delivering Dignity category of the Burdett Nursing Awards, which celebrate good nursing practice, the team behind this groundbreaking work, St Luke’s Community Nurse Specialists Martin Thomas and Derek Hart, plus Care UK’s Sheridan McGinlay, who they work alongside at Dartmoor, were in London recently for the glittering awards ceremony.

They were ecstatic to not only take first prize in their category, securing a £20,000 grant, but to receive the accolade of being overall winners of the awards, adding an extra £10,000 to their pot so that they can build on the project’s success.

It was in 2015 that St Luke’s launched the End of Life Care in Dartmoor Prison project aimed at improving access and increasing end of life care for prisoners, helped by a Burdett Trust grant.

Since then, in an environment many would find challenging, Martin and Derek have helped change the way Dartmoor delivers end of life care, creating a blueprint for other prisons in the process.

Despite its 630 prisoners, an ageing demographic and high levels of chronic diseases, the prison was referring just a small number of patients for specialist palliative care. As was apparent to our team, this was related to a lack of understanding of, and low expectations around, end of life care. However, with the prison’s Healthcare Team keen to change this, our team worked in partnership with them to facilitate positive changes through regular meetings and clinics, as well as staff training.

Thanks to this approach, and despite considerable challenges around prison security, the internal drug culture and Victorian prison wings, the number of prisoners accessing end of life services has increased seven-fold, care is patient-centered and integrated, and there is greater choice for prisoners in the care they receive.

Importantly, the prison’s culture is now more compassionate. A ‘buddy system’ is seeing inmates support each other by giving practical help to the less able, and they are also receiving training to become listeners. In addition, there’s now a dedicated wing for those who require care, and good take up of St Luke’s Advance Care plan, which lets staff know the individual’s wishes if that person is unable to speak up for themselves in their last days.

Speaking about the awards, George Lillie, Deputy Chief Executive at St Luke’s, said: “It’s fantastic that our dedicated team has received such well-deserved recognition, and encouraging that working in partnership is bringing our compassionate care to those who are often forgotten. Well done to everyone involved!”

In a hospital environment, a sensitive approach to necessary but difficult conversations with patients’ families is key. In Derriford Hospital Plymouth space is very tight and a creative solution has been sought to provide staff there with guidance to enhance communication at these times.

To help with this, the hospital called on the expertise of Dr Sioned Evans, Consultant in Palliative Medicine at St Luke’s, who worked with colleagues to develop the SPACE initiative. Based on established good practice in communication, the plan is to role it out across the hospital to help staff prepare and plan for sensitive conversations.

“We chose the acronym SPACE because space is both the problem and the solution,” said Sioned.

For more information please call St Luke’s hospital team (Level 8) on 01752 436744.

Love and laughter filled the air at our specialist unit at Turnchapel recently, when our team helped Domminick, a patient there, and his wife Hilary celebrate the renewal of their wedding vows.

The touching service in the Harbour was followed by a joyful wedding reception in our specially decorated Conservatory for visiting family and friends of the couple.

The pink flamingo theme chosen by Domminick and Hilary reflected their fun personalities and raised lots of smiles, with the bride – who arrived by vintage car – sporting flamingo pyjamas and slippers, and guests enjoying flamingo cupcakes with their champagne.

Also on the menu were ‘poo’ cupcakes, which – along with the groom’s poo-themed slippers – were a light-hearted way the couple chose to reference Domminick’s bowel cancer.

Hilary said: “Raising more awareness of bowel cancer and the signs of it are so important. People need to talk more about poo! Also, we should speak more openly about hospice care because, as our special day showed, hospices can be such happy places where memories of love and fun are created.”

The beautiful flowers, including Hilary’s pretty posy and Domminick’s button-hole (worn with his Muppets t-shirt), were kindly donated by Plymstock florist, H Watts.

Keen to go the extra mile to make the day even more special, our team transformed Domminick’s room on the ward into a honeymoon suite, complete with rose petals on the bed and ‘love nest – do not disturb’ sign on the door.

Sister Karen Thorrington said: “The whole occasion was so lovely, happy and uplifting, fulfilling Domminick’s wish for it to be all about the couple celebrating their love for each other. He wanted to create a lasting memory for Hilary of fun, not sad times.

“A huge thank you to all our staff and volunteers who pulled together to make it all so special, full of precious memories.”

Over a hundred people from a wide range of organisations, from the arts and the NHS to schools, solicitors, churches and charities, gathered in Plymouth last week to discuss ways of collaborating to make the city more compassionate for those at the end of life, or living with bereavement and loss.

As a growing city (a predicted 300,000 residents by 2032) with a rising number of over-65s, there are increasing demands on health and social care resources as care becomes more complex and end of life needs grow. New ways of delivering services are needed, and Plymouth has already started to make strides in developing a more inclusive approach to end of life care, with the conference being a call to do more.

The Compassionate City conference on Thursday 17 May was facilitated by St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth as part of Dying Matters Awareness Week to highlight the positive work currently happening across the city while encouraging co-operation to address existing and future challenges.

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

Key speaker at the conference, 50th Anniversary (End of Life Care) Professor Allan Kellehear from the University of Bradford, said: “Every day people die and hearts are broken. While we can’t prevent death, by working collectively we can help prevent the harms that can accompany it, such as depression and job loss.

“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. The measure of success is how many people enrol in this.”

Fellow speaker Carole Burgoyne, Strategic Director for People at Plymouth City Council, said: “The Compassionate City Charter for end of life care gives us all a framework to work towards and as a Council we fully support this approach and want to work with our community to make this aspiration a reality.

“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 create a city that does not shy away from their needs, but together provides a compassionate collective response.”

Those at the conference heard inspirational case studies demonstrating a compassionate and joined-up approach to end of life care, including the work of St Luke’s and its partners at Dartmoor Prison and George House Homeless Hostel in Plymouth.

There was a call by Gail Wilson, Deputy Clinical Director at St Luke’s, for people to sign up to become Compassionate Friends and make personal pledges to support those at end of life or suffering from bereavement or loss. She called for communities to form compassionate networks in their areas so that no-one feels isolated or alone. Such networks can receive free training through the St Luke’s Compassionate Communities development programme, which aims to form new ways of working between communities and services to improve end of life care locally.

Delegates also learned about the Advance Care Plan (ACP) card that can be kept in wallets and purses. Pioneered by St Luke’s, the card highlights to all that there is a personal plan which states the future wishes of the individual. This will help staff ensure the wishes of the person, as far as possible, are respected and acted upon should they be unable to speak up for themselves in their last days.

In addition, round table discussions focused on action plans to develop a compassionate city with collective actions for schools and colleges, care homes, places of worship, and city cafes and other social spaces.

Speaking about the conference, Abenaa Gyamfuah-Assibey, St Luke’s Community Development Worker, said: “It was really encouraging to see so many organisations and groups represented and engaging enthusiastically in the thought-provoking discussions at this event.

“The day was a huge success in developing a communal vision of Plymouth as a Compassionate City and putting ideas into action to ensure positive outcomes that will support everyone at times of difficulty and loss, regardless of their age, culture or background.

“We now want to harness all of this energy through the end of life network to realise our aspiration for Plymouth to become recognised as England’s first Compassionate City for end of life.”

Find out how you can become a compassionate community.