The compassion with which St Luke’s looks after people is about far more than hands-on medical care. Our approach is holistic, so it also includes emotional and spiritual support for patients and their families at the most difficult of times.

The Social Care team, which includes both staff and volunteers, comes alongside patients who request their help in very challenging circumstances and also their family members, who are referred if they need support as they navigate their way through the loss of their loved one.

The team sees patients and families in their own homes, but also at GP surgeries and at the specialist unit, too.

Speaking with Jutta Widlake, Head of Social Care, one thing is very clear – there is no ‘normal’ when it comes to the feelings people have when experiencing grief. “Am I ‘doing it’ right?” and “How long will these feelings last?” are questions frequently asked by people who are bereaved, but everyone’s reactions are different.

Jutta said: “Grief can be very intense and it is common for people to fear they’re losing their minds, so it’s important we’re there to listen and reassure them that many people feel this way but, leaving aside very few exceptions, whatever is ‘normal’ is what’s natural for them as an individual.

“Emotional distress is extremely common, but it is not unusual for some people to keep so busy that their grief can be delayed, or stifled, for a few weeks while they organise the funeral, or sometimes for many years. It is not always the case that we will see them soon after the death of the person they lost.
“At this time of year, though, people can be feeling particularly anxious. Perhaps they have had family around them over the Christmas period and busied themselves, but now there’s more time to reflect and they’re feeling their loss more acutely. Or perhaps Christmas felt so lonely without their loved one that facing the year ahead seems incredibly daunting.

“It’s common for anniversaries and family events to be particularly challenging so sometimes, if it feels appropriate, we encourage them to make new traditions that include memories of the person they’ve lost but help them move forward.”

Asked to pinpoint qualities and skills staff and volunteers need to make a difference, Jutta said: “Essentially we are facilitators who engage with people, firstly by listening to them, validating their experiences. Sometimes, there are very complex issues – for example, family conflicts or safeguarding concerns – so we help them work through those, too. The team continuously develop their specialist communication skills and use approaches such as mindfulness and cognitive behavioural therapy. Counselling skills can be very helpful, too.

“We need to be empathic; the feeling that they’ve been heard can be incredibly helpful to those we support. In addition, we can assist in practical ways. Our Social Care Support Workers often help the person navigate the complicated benefits system to access their full entitlement, and our volunteers help with shopping or creating a bucket list so the person can look to the future.

“It’s very rewarding when you hear that you’ve played a part in enabling someone to face the future with hope. And, if we feel there is another agency that would either be more appropriate or complement our service, we will work in partnership.”

Among the volunteers is Adrian Frost, who was inspired by the hospice care his brother received in Cornwall at St Julia’s and began giving his time as a van driver for St Luke’s before training as a befriender and bereavement visitor.

Adrian sees these as two sides of the same coin – while the befriending is about coming alongside people in their last days, helping the bereaved involves supporting them as they face a new future.

Over the years, Adrian’s kindness, listening ear and practical skills have helped many people, whether he’s visited them at home or taken them for a drive, recognising some people find it easier to share their feelings outside their everyday environment.

Adrian said: “Nature can be so helpful, so sometimes we spend time outdoors by the sea or in the countryside. It’s not always about talking – silence can be a powerful tool. Being comfortable with it is important as, of course, is being open and interested in what the person has to say.

“Some people find just one visit is all they require, while others I see several times. My role is about helping them take their first steps after their bereavement, until they can move forward more confidently. So, I could be helping them with practicalities, or simply listening. I can’t imagine my life without this role now, and I consider it a privilege to be allowed into their lives.”

Learn more about our social care and bereavement support.

For terminally ill people living in a rural area like Kingsbridge, it can be more difficult to get the specialist end of life care they need at home – if that’s where they choose to be looked after – than it is for their urban counterparts.

Last year at the Who Cares in Kingsbridge event facilitated by St Luke’s, local people expressed their desire to work together in a supportive network to enable choice and encourage compassion for those in their community for whom time is running short. However, they highlighted the need for a properly co-ordinated approach to harness their efforts.

Recently, thanks to funding from Hospice UK for the new role of Community Network Co-ordinator for Kingsbridge, St Luke’s has been able to respond to this need. We have appointed Robyn Newport, who is looking forward to getting to know local business owners, voluntary groups and health care services to help establish a Compassionate End of Life Care Community within the town.

Robyn said: “I’d like to encourage everyone in the community to think about how they support others through bereavement, to feel comfortable talking about end of life care wishes and help people think about their own supportive network. I hope this will help alleviate some of the anxieties and fears we all have about having these difficult but very important conversations.”

As part of her remit, Robyn will also be delivering free Compassionate Friend, Compassionate Champion and Compassionate Network Co-ordinator training, giving people the skills and confidence to have open, honest and sensitive conversations and think about ways they can support others in their community.

Robyn said: “St Luke’s is committed to working with our local communities to realise the potential of informal networks and develop more effective ways to provide compassionate carer support and choice for those at the end of life, so that they can die at home with those they love.”

If you’re based in Kingsbridge and would like to meet Robyn, or are interested in becoming a Compassionate Friend, Champion or Co-ordinator, please head over to our webpage.

Lee Braid is taking the plunge for St Luke’s in June following the care we gave his father, bravely taking on a bungee jump to raise as much as he can by way of thanks to our team.

And while many choose this particular experience for sheer exhilaration, there’s an extra-special reason for Lee.

Diagnosed with a brain tumour last year, he decided on the UK’s biggest leap (300ft!) because this gave him a ‘sense of living again’ following the downward spiral of feelings he experienced after being diagnosed.

Lee, who works for EE – which has kindly chosen us as its charity of the year – said: “While I can, I really want to make memories with friends and family. Memories are the one thing that don’t go away.

“My philosophy is live life now, while you can. You don’t know what’s going to happen further down the line.”

If you’d like to show support for Lee and St Luke’s, please visit his fundraising page  – thank you.

Learn more how you can fundraise for St Luke’s.

Kick start the new year by doing something great for your community by volunteering for St Luke’s.

Our amazing volunteers are at the heart of St Luke’s and the services we provide. We appreciate them every day and want to say an extra big thank you to them all for the difference they make.

If you’ve ever considered the idea of volunteering, but just haven’t got round to making that first step. Perhaps, some messages from our current volunteers may just inspire you.

Get in touch, we’d love to hear from you.

Trudy Turner – Estover charity shop volunteer

The majority of our volunteers are based across St Luke’s 30 plus charity shops throughout the community. Trudy Turner is a familiar friendly face to customers at our Estover shop and has found that volunteering there has been a great way to both meet people and gain new skills.

A support worker and registered carer for her daughter, Trudy lives locally.

“This was a way to get myself back into the workforce after 12 months at home as a carer,” she said. “Even though I explained my experience wasn’t recent, that wasn’t a barrier. It was a case of come in and see how you get on.”

The flexibility of volunteering and the fun to be had along the way also appeal. “There’s no pressure,” said Trudy, who helps create the shop window and other displays. “I can do two hours on a Saturday or a full day – it doesn’t matter. There’s lots of mayhem and lots of fun.”

Inspired? Find out about volunteering opportunities in our new Plymouth city centre charity shop. Give us a call on 01752 401172 and ask for volunteer services.

Jennie Easterbrook – Dritwood Cafe volunteer

Behind the counter at our Driftwood Cafe at Turnchapel, the first thing you notice about Jennie Easterbrook is her mega-watt smile. Along with her fellow volunteers there, she ensures visitors receive a warm welcome and great service, whether they’re in for a work meeting or to spend time with a relative receiving our care.

As well as serving there, Jennie helps out in the kitchen and can also be seen wheeling the tea trolley around the ward, making sure patients and relatives can enjoy a relaxing cuppa, or collecting dishes.

Jennie’s father, who passed away two years ago, received St Luke’s care at home. It was witnessing the quality of the medical care and emotional support he received that helped Jennie decide to give back by becoming a volunteer. “It was eye-opening to see how much care is given in the community,” she said.

Seeing her face light up when she talks about our patients, it’s clear that making a difference to them is Jennie’s biggest motivator for getting involved. She said: “You would never be able to tell some people are so poorly. You chat and have a laugh. If you treat them as people rather than walking on eggshells, you get a lot back. They’re so grateful for the slightest thing and it’s just so rewarding. When one of them told me recently that I was a ‘ray of sunshine’, I could have cried!”

Reflecting on her time caring for her father before he passed away, Jennie says she found it both heartwrenching and rewarding to look after the person who had raised her, adding: “If I can help just one person – make a difference to that one – then it’s mission accomplished really.”

Learn more about volunteering at St Luke’s.

Adrian Frost – Befriender and bereavement support volunteer

How does a Bristish Gas engineer with 33 years’ service become one of our Social Care volunteers, providing such valuable support to people facing the end of life and coming alongside those who have lost loved one? Seamlessly, it’s clear, hearing Adrian Frost talk about how he took up volunteering with us nearly 20 years ago. It was the loss of his brother Roger in 1996 at St Julia’s Hospice in Hayle that made Adrian take stock and decide to get involved with our charity in 1998.

“I can’t imagine not doing it now – I find it so rewarding,” he said. “I often take people out for a drive across Dartmoor or up by the coast. Sometimes we visit a cafe or take a picnic. When people are poorly and they can’t get out easily, that can make all the difference.”

And Adrian is quick to bust the myth that hospices like St Luke’s are depressing. “Yes, there are times of tears and sadness but the majority of the time it’s lovely. It’s full of light and laughter!”

Learn more about volunteering at St Luke’s.

Amanda Jackson – Medical volunteer

Recently retired and with 45 year’s nursing experience under her belt, Amanda Jackson found that serendipity played its part in bringing her to St Luke’s.

“I was looking for a way to give something back to the community and use my skills at just the time St Luke’s was recruiting volunteers for the specialist unit at Turnchapel,” she said. “I do what’s needed on the day, whether it’s making beds and helping with bathing or spending a couple of hours listening to a patient. I enjoy the contact with them and their families, and listening to their stories.”

The one morning a week she volunteers means a great deal to Amanda. “When you retire, you can lose who you are and it’s important to get that back,” she said. “It’s made me feel valued again. It might be just a small part of my week and the Hospice’s week, but hopefully I can contribute something, and I get a lot out of it.”

Learn more about volunteering at St Luke’s.

Brian McCourt – Maintenance volunteer

Like so many of our hard-working volunteers, Brian McCourt enjoys putting the practical skills gained through a long career to great use to help St Luke’s and those we look after. With 30 charity shops and much related maintenance there’s plenty to keep him busy, and the skills he acquired from many years working as a carpenter, joiner and shop-fitter are in constant demand. Brian, who worked for Bambles and at the Dockyard, first became incolved with our charity through fundraising , including setting up a St Luke’s Hospice Cricket League. He has been volunteering for us for many years, giving two days a week of his time.

Brian said: “Plumbing, electrics, brick-laying, carpentry – there’s plenty to do around the shops. And if you don’t know, you’ll be working with a tradesman who does. “When there’s a new shop, I help set that up, too. I recently worked on the one at Southway. There’s no pressure though – you do what you can and as long as you’re helping, they’re happy.”

Learn more about volunteering at St Luke’s.

Reception volunteers

When visitors arrive at our specialist unit at Turnchapel, the warm and friendly welcome they receive plays a big part in the relaxed, peaceful and uplifting setting they encounter, often at a time when they’re expecting something far less positive. But did you know it takes 25 volunteers to help ensure the smooth-running of our busy Reception area?

Jenny Nicol, Senior Receptionist, said: “There’s a lot to juggle on Reception, from greeting visitors and answering the phones to dealing with enquiries from patients, relatives and staff. It’s really important that we provide a friendly and professional service, particularly as many of the people we see are going through a really difficult time. It just wouldn’t be possible to do what we do without our wonderful volunteers.”

Learn more about volunteering at St Luke’s.

Plymouth’s biggest and best Men’s Day Out is back! Join hundreds of men on the move for St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth on Saturday 30 March.

It’s a great opportunity to gather your mates and walk our 12km route (with one or two watering holes along the way) and enjoy a pasty and a pint whilst watching a cracking rugby match, at the end.

Learn more!

Men’s Day Out 2019

Big announcement on Tuesday 1 January!

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With an estimated £140million of used clothing being sent to landfill each year in the UK*, one of the city’s best-loved charities has joined forces with talented students to show that buying outfits second hand not only boosts our wardrobes and wallets but benefits the world at large, too.

When first-year commercial photography students from Plymouth College of Art sought St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth’s help for a ‘high end’ fashion shoot with a difference, the charity – which has over 30 shops across Plymouth and surrounding areas where it cares for patients at end of life – was keen to help, giving them free rein to raid the rails of its city centre Drake store in Cornwall Street to find suitably stylish secondhand items.

With the students having mixed expectations about the quality and range of items they might find there, the experience proved a real eye-opener for the budding photographers – Ben Given, Bethan Madeley, Catherine Hyde, Mi Kelly, Paris Netherton and Rosie Hartshorn – as well as producer, student Alice Conway, models Laura McGowen and Abi Baldwin, plus the hair and make-up team of City College Plymouth students involved.

Not only were they blown away by the bargain prices of the impressive range of high-quality pre-loved dresses, coats, shoes and accessories, they pooled their talents to make the outfits look a million dollars in the images they captured against the suitably elegant backdrop of Mount Edgecumbe House in Cornwall.

Student photographer Mi Kelly said: “Initially, we were a bit sceptical and weren’t sure we’d find enough high-quality items in a charity shop, but we couldn’t have been more wrong. Our trawl netted really well-made clothing and great accessories that with a bit of savvy styling looked fantastic in our photographs. It has changed my perception of charity shops – you can find treasure there!”

Also impressed was the students’ tutor, Lecturer Carri Angel. She said: “The majority of our students have grown up with ‘fast fashion’, where many brands promote cheap items designed to be disposed of after minimal wear. These students are the influential image-makers of the future so it’s important that we challenge them to be part of the solution to the problem. They’ve proved that secondhand in no way means second rate.”

So pleased is St Luke’s with the fashion shoot photographs it is planning to display them in the Drake charity shop windows shortly.

Shop Manager Julie Bickford said: “It’s great that while the images are high end, the outfits sourced from our shop are absolute bargains – a whole outfit perfect for a new year ball for just £35! Just shows you can be stylish in a sustainable way, all while supporting a fantastic local cause.”

*Figure from Wrap UK

Learn more about our shops.

Without doubt, all our fundraisers are very special people but we think you’ll agree big-hearted Bridget is extra special.

In just three weeks, fuelled by her passion to make a difference while she can, this inspirational lady has gone from receiving the devastating news of a terminal diagnosis to fundraising for St Luke’s by having her head shaved.

Following her diagnosis in hospital, our compassionate team has been caring for Bridget at home and supporting her family, including husband Keith, whom she met while at school.

Bridget is making every moment count.

If you’d like to show her your support, it’s not too late to donate via Facebook.

St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth has long been renowned locally for the outstanding end of life care it provides across the city and surrounding areas and now the charity has received prestigious national recognition as Hospice Team of the Year.

Staff and volunteers received the accolade in this year’s Hospice UK Awards, which celebrate the innovative work and people in hospices and palliative care organisations across the UK.

St Luke’s entry for the award centred on its Patches pre-bereavement support for young families.

The service – which launched as a pilot in November 2017 – was developed in response to the changing hospice environment, with St Luke’s seeing an increase in the number of patients under 40 needing its specialist care at home, in hospital and at its specialist unit at Turnchapel.

With most of these patients having young children, they have the daunting task of preparing their young children for their death, which can add extra anxiety at an already challenging time. Meanwhile, the youngsters face the heartbreak of losing a parent and can experience feelings of confusion and fear.

With this in mind, and recognising the positive lasting impact of sensitive, age appropriate support for children in these circumstances, staff and volunteers from across the organisation rallied to develop and deliver a solution that provides bespoke support for each individual family as part as of the seamless package of compassionate care for which St Luke’s is known.

Adapting the existing national pre-bereavement support model, clinical and non-clinical teams came together as one, with doctors and nurses sharing ideas and skills with their social care colleagues, the communications and fundraising teams, maintenance and receptionists.

While St Luke’s has an outstanding Patches Family Support Worker in Lisa Carter, who is there for young families facing loss, her work is enabled and supported by a much wider team across St Luke’s.

Patches, the koi carp cartoon character, and the materials he features in to engage young children and help them make memories with their family, was created by talented in-house graphic designer, Jesse-James Cambridge and volunteer illustrator Marie Arroyo Lopez, while the maintenance team transformed the playroom and implemented the Patches trail around the specialist unit at Turnchapel. In addition, staff and volunteer receptionists ensure a warm welcome at the unit and give out direction for the trail.

Since its launch, the service has helped 134 families.

The outstanding teamwork involved stood out to the Hospice UK judging panel who said, “The project has made an impact to not only its service users but also to its own staff and will help promote the hospice to the local community too. The Patches project can be replicated in other hospices very easily.”

On her recent visit to St Luke’s Tracey Bleakley Chief Executive of Hospice UK said: “I am so impressed by the innovation at the hospice actually, and the fact it comes from all levels. It’s a really great culture of everyone listening, learning and innovating from each other. When ideas come from junior members of staff or people out there working with families like Patches, it’s so impressive how everyone supports that all the way through to the board. Money is found for the project, people work together and the outcome is fantastic and what that really means is that it’s a hospice that’s growing and developing with the community and will continue to do so”.

Steve Statham, Chief Executive of St Luke’s, said: “I’m delighted and proud that the passion, dedication and hard work of our staff and volunteers has been recognised nationally by Hospice UK.

“The hospice movement is renowned for being pioneering, willing to take on a challenge, respond and adapt. Our Patches pre-bereavement support is a shining example of hospice care at its most creative, and it is really heart-warming to see how many families have been helped and how many young lives have been made just that little bit easier.”

Patches is kindly supported by The Morrisons Foundation.

Learn more about Patches.

Watch the behind the scenes making of Patches

Helping care home staff by increasing their knowledge and competence improves care and decreases referrals to stretched NHS services, so it’s great news that our recent Health Education England grant has enabled us to deliver beneficial training that is already making a difference.

Our first cohort of 8 care home students gathered at our Brooklands, Crownhill offices recently to celebrate completing St Luke’s Care Home Assessment of the Sicker Person (CHASP) programme.

Recognising that older people in care homes have increasingly complex needs and require access to good quality nursing care, this new programme supports staff to enhance their clinical skills and minimise avoidable admissions to acute care in hospital.

In addition to learning valuable skills, all the students positively spoke on how the programme gave them a real confidence boost as Emma Peffers at Meadowside and St Francis Care Homes, explains “It gives us the confidence to be able to assess a patient instead of going straight to the registered nurse. We now know what we are looking for, confident to facilitate the observations and then go to the registered nurse which ultimately saves valuable time.”

For care homes providing support around Dementia, the programme provides additional benefits as Ewa Kalend, Care Manager at Greenacres, explains “We deal with people that live with Dementia and often we can’t ask a simple question to establish if they are well or not. The training has given us more confidence to make a judgement and develop our skills further.

Ewa added, for the first time we went into something that has really made a massive change with our confidence. Knowing that there is a St Luke’s team that you can always phone, ask about basics and reassure you that you are doing the right thing, is a massive help.”

Su Jameson, End of Life Clinical Educator at St Luke’s, said: “This grant will further improve the good relationship we have already with care homes. This investment in the professional development of their staff recognises the key role they play in providing care in Plymouth with the aim to improve their knowledge and skills, benefiting both the residents of the care homes and increases the staff morale”.

“It also helps raise the profile of our education team and the diverse training they can offer.”

Learn more about our courses