Meeting the winner of our Christmas raffle to give them their £2,000 cheque is a real highlight of the festive season at St Luke’s.

Our winner Mrs Shobbrook visited our specialist unit at Turnchapel with her daughter Caroline this week. Over tea and mince pies, they shared with us special memories of Ken, Mrs Shobbrook’s husband of 58 years and Caroline’s father, who was cared for at the unit and passed away there.

Speaking with great affection of Ken’s kind nature, his ability to always see the funny side and his ‘quiet rebelliousness’, they also praised the care our team gave Ken and the family.

Mrs Shobbrook, a long term supporter of our charity, said: “Warm, comforting and very caring, St Luke’s helped take our fear away.”

Congratulations to Mrs Shobbrook and the winners of our other raffle prizes!

Staff at St Luke’s Care are beaming with pride this week as the government’s care regulator rated the domiciliary care service as outstanding – an accolade that puts it in the top 0.5% of organisations inspected nationwide and makes it one of the three out of 198 providers in Plymouth to receive the highest rating.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) looked at the work of St Luke’s Care over a three-day inspection in the autumn, talking with clients as well as meeting staff at the service’s headquarters at Brooklands in Crownhill, Plymouth.

St Luke’s Care provides paid-for care and support to adults of any age with illness, disability or frailty so that they can continue to live as independently as possible in their own homes. Covering Plymouth and South West Devon, the team gives support with personal care, as well as help with daily living tasks and activities.

Rating the service outstanding overall, the CQC highlighted in particular the ‘extremely caring’ way St Luke’s Care staff look after people, and the ‘exceptional’ leadership demonstrated by the management team.

Placing people at the heart of its service and providing them with personalised care is key to its achievements, St Luke’s Care believes. This was evident to the CQC, its report noting that people were ‘supported to be involved about how they received their care and support’.

Going the extra mile for the people they help is also central to St Luke’s Care’s ethos of compassion, as the inspector’s report demonstrated. “The staff are excellent. They brought me flowers when I came out of hospital. They do everything and more – they never make me feel like a burden,” said one person who used the service, while another said, “It’s the little things that make all the difference. They pick up fish and chips for me once a week and make sure I have fresh bread.”

Without exception, relatives met by the inspector also spoke very highly of the care their loved ones received, describing the positive impact St Luke’s Care has on their quality of life and the life of their family and loved ones.

Sarah Roberts, Business Care Manager for St Luke’s Care, said: “We are very proud to receive this outstanding rating, which is testament to the exceptional commitment of the whole team. Whether they receive care every day or for a few hours a week, we are passionate about enhancing people’s well-being and quality of life, and strive to keep clients and their families at the centre of our service. They consistently tell us what a difference our team’s holistic approach makes to them, and to have this recognised by the CQC is a wonderful endorsement”.

“Developing staff and sharing best practice with other organisations helps ensure we provide the highest standard of care. We’re currently recruiting new domiciliary care staff and as part of this, we’re holding a Recruitment Open Day on 16 January. This is a great opportunity to meet the team and find out about the very rewarding work we do, helping people to live as independently as possible.”

 

Thank you to Plymouth Argyle Football Club for putting its best foot forward to support our Sponsor a Nurse campaign.

Recently two of the players, Jamie Ness and Luke McCormick, visited our specialist unit at Turnchapel to meet some of our nurses and see for themselves the compassionate care St Luke’s provides.

 

 

Wow, what a night! As part of their support for our Sponsor a Nurse campaign, Plymouth Argyle dedicated a recent home match – beating rivals Northampton Town in the process!

It was wonderful to see the players in their St Luke’s t-shirts, and we’re grateful to the club and the fans who demonstrated such tremendous support for our charity.

Recently, a keen fundraiser and St Luke’s Lottery winner visited the specialist unit at Turnchapel to collect his £1,000 cheque and enjoy a special cream tea.

Lesley Coulton, Regular Giving and Lottery Manager, and Paola Simoneschi, Communications Officer, had the pleasure of meeting retired stonemason Raymond Shipton, who shared with them treasured memories of Tricia, his beloved wife of 58 years, who was cared for at Derriford and passed away in the summer. Raymond’s niece, Susan Van Neck, was a patient at St Luke’s many years before.

Over the tea and scones, Raymond spoke movingly about Tricia and the life they shared. “Tricia was a very, very special person and we had the most wonderful life together,” he said. “We met when we were really young. In fact Tricia was just nine when I first saw her – I was delivering the newspaper to her house,” he said. “Later, we attended a youth club together and school in Horrabridge, and we were inseparable.”

The couple married after Raymond completed National Service and went on to have three daughters. In later life came the joy of eight grandchildren, and the family continue to be very close.

Keen baker Raymond has been President of a Plymouth Lions Club twice. The Club has generously raised money for St Luke’s, and Raymond remains a very active member.

“I’m so pleased Raymond was able to visit us to receive his cheque,” said Lesley. “It was a real privilege to meet him and particularly special to hear his memories of Tricia.”

In his gratitude for receiving the Lottery cheque, Raymond presented Lesley with a cheque for £100 for St Luke’s.

Inspirational Espi - Esperanza Merry

 

Inspirational Espi - Esperanza Merry

Among St Luke’s fantastic volunteers there’s a special person who’s packed an impressive amount into her young life and is a great inspiration to all around her, whatever their age!

A familiar face at the specialist unit at Turnchapel, where she gives her time to help on reception and serve in the Driftwood Cafe, 17-year-old Esperanza Merry was recently named Volunteer of the Month by Improving Lives Plymouth. Meeting Espi, as she likes to be known, it’s easy to see why – her enthusiasm for giving back to St Luke’s, which cared for her grandfather at the end of his life, bubbles over.

I was incredibly close to my grandfather and losing him was very hard,” said Espi, who is half Peruvian and grew up in Plymouth. “I wanted to honour him, and volunteering at St Luke’s is an important part of that. Being on reception and working in the Cafe means I frequently meet families visiting a loved one, and I can really relate to some of what they must be feeling.”

Espi is not a ‘typical teenager’. By the age of 11 she had competed in – and won – over 40 tennis tournaments worldwide. However, in 2011 a life-threatening infection in her hip led to septic arthritis and not only did this impact her professional tennis career, she was expected to be in wheelchair for the rest of her life. With the help of surgery, physiotherapy and her own grit and determination though, she gradually progressed to walking on crutches and then completely unsupported, although she still has to deal with constant pain.

Inspirational Espi made her mark along the way, becoming the world junior champion in wheelchair tennis. Although it was a huge part of her life, she has since retired from the sport to follow other interests. As part of this, she is studying business at City College.

Listening to Espi, it’s clear she is very happy to juggle her studies and volunteering. It’s also obvious that this is someone who relishes a challenge!

Due to my experience of hospitals, I’m not phased by the hospice environment but volunteering on reception was daunting at first,” she said. “I want to work on my weaker areas though, and this is really helping to build my confidence. Plus, I’m surrounded by people who are an inspiration to me – the staff, fellow volunteers and the patients and their families.”

If Espi has inspired you to volunteer with St Luke’s – or to speak with friends or family about volunteering – the new year could be a great time to start!

Find out more here: https://www.stlukes-hospice.org.uk/volunteering/

Christmas in their words - Letters from our nurses

Christmas in their words - Letters from our nurses

 

Our special nurses are central to the care St Luke’s provides 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including over the Christmas period. But how does it feel to be providing such essential care at this time of year, and how does Christmas impact their patients and families?

Karen Thorrington is part of the team at our specialist unit at Turnchapel, where we have 12 beds for patients with with complex needs that are proving difficult to manage in other settings.

Karen said: “It’s an extremely special time of year, especially for our patients as for many it will be their last. We try to create as many happy memories as possible as it’s important they get to experience everything they can with the time they have left. We make sure there’s a really jolly atmosphere on the unit. It is bittersweet, but us being happy at work helps our patients and their families. There’s definitely more laughter than tears. We remain sensitive to everyone’s needs, decorating the unit towards the middle of December as too early can be a reminder for many that they may not see Christmas. Around that time, staff can be spotted with tinsel in their hair, wearing Christmas-themed tights – often a talking point!

The best way to describe what we do at Christmas is to give people the gift of time – time to open presents, time for a meal together, time for sharing stories and laughter. There’s nothing more important than time for those who are spending their last days with us. Sometimes we have to make the decision to bring Christmas forward as we did for a patient and her family last year. The catering team provided a fantastic buffet, including special treats for the patient’s grandchildren.

The family brought in their ukuleles and played Christmas carols for hours. There was a real party atmosphere – lots of laughing and singing. It was a very special occasion and she talked about it for days after.”

James Mills is part of the St Luke’s team based at Derriford Hospital. The team offers specialist advice and support for any hospital inpatient with a progressive life limiting illness.

James said: “We provide a palliative care service to the whole hospital seven days a week, including over the Christmas period. We work closely with staff and patients on Brent ward (oncology), who are very good at creating a positive and festive atmosphere. Christmas can be an emotionally charged time for people, and of course this is even more true for patients and families faced with a life limiting illness. There’s an awareness that this might be their last Christmas together. A nurse in our team spoke recently of a patient signing Christmas cards now so her family have one to open from her this year. We also see patients and families bringing their Christmas forward in order to be able to celebrate with loved ones.

Personally, Christmas evokes memories of those I’ve cared for over the past year, those who’ve died and how their families must be feeling during this time. As a team we have a heightened awareness of their situation, and we try to keep a sense of normality and remain upbeat for them.”

Jenny Evans works with our Crisis Team, which provides terminally ill patients with a 72-hour window of specialist care at home, including those in residential and nursing homes, at a time of crisis.

Jenny said: “Working over the Christmas in healthcare feels different to most other professions, as we often miss out on our own family celebrations, which can be sad. This doesn’t compare to the feelings our patients and families are experiencing though. It’s a great privilege to be involved in a patient’s care, particularly at this time of year.

While we can’t change the fact that the person is dying, we can help make it as dignified and comfortable as possible, providing holistic care, as we do all year around. A particular memory that stands out is from 2005, when I spent Christmas Eve helping facilitate a discharge home from hospital. The man was in his early 40s, with children. He was in the last days of life and both he and his family were desperate he should get home.

The patient’s wife was very much in denial of his prognosis, thinking he was going to get better. I spent lots of time with her, giving support. We did manage to get him home late in the evening, and cared for him in his own bed. The night staff then also spent time with him and the family, and managed to gain symptom control. Although he was unresponsive on Christmas Day, he was much more comfortable, which enabled his family to have one last Christmas with him at home. He died peacefully on Boxing Day, surrounded by them. While this was a very tricky situation, it was wonderful we were able to make a difference so that he was with loved ones and able to see the hundreds of decorations his children had made. The house looked like Santa’s grotto!”

Julie Hicks works as part of the St Luke’s at home team, which offers specialist advice, care and support to people with progressive life limiting illnesses in the comfort of their own home.

Julie said: “When someone needs our care at home, it is understandably a difficult time for both them and their loved ones, regardless of the time of year. I’ve noticed though, that in the run-up to Christmas they can be experiencing the strain of extra concerns. Christmas is a special time of celebration, but for some people with life limiting conditions and their families, it can be a time of reflection and great sadness.

Frequently, taking the time to help them make a plan can alleviate some of their anxiety and enable them to focus more on having the best possible Christmas. The Community Team continues to provide the same supportive service whatever the season.”

This year at St Luke’s we celebrate our 35th anniversary and what better way than to thank the people who make our care possible – the staff and volunteers.

Earlier this week our senior managers hit the offices and wards to say thank you, delivering a few suprises on the way. With over 300 staff and almost 1,000 volunteers split across four sites at Turnchapel, Crownhill, Plympton and Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust, it has certainly kept them fit.

At St Luke’s we strive to be an employer of distinction and choice, after all our staff and volunteers are what make our care possible.

From nursing, social care and occupational therapy; to finance, administration, fundraising and maintenance – all our roles play a key part in helping us deliver care to 3,400 patients every year.

If you are considering your next career move, why not register for our job alerts. Who knows, next year we could be thanking you.

Joy Clarke, a well loved member of the Retail team based at Plympton, is retiring at the end of November after eight and half years’ dedicated service.

Joy returned to live in Plymouth from Torquay following the death of her partner. Keen to work and with good knowledge of St Luke’s gained through fundraising via a local Lion’s Club, she soon proved herself a great asset, working on everything from logistics to sorting through bric-a-brac donations.

Particularly enjoying the research involved, Joy quickly developed something of an eye for spotting ‘buried treasure’ among the piles of donated items and selecting those most likely to fetch a good price at auction. In her first year, sales from the auctions soared from £800 to £12,000 and gradually Joy’s hours increased until she became full time.

“It’s always felt as though I was a good fit for working here,” said Joy, whose varied background includes tailoring, working for a hi-fi business, driving a fork-lift truck for a lubricants company and some time with beauty brand Clinique. “I’ve seen my role evolve and have loved being part of the team, the happy atmosphere and working alongside our fantastic volunteers. My heart and mind has always been St Luke’s.”

A particular high point for Joy was seeing the Retail team hit its £1million profit target last year. The incredible team spirit is just one of the reasons she has not found it an easy decision to retire, but she plans to retain links by volunteering in our shops and continuing the fundraise for
St Luke’s. Joy wants to combine this with spending more time with family. In fact, supporting charities is in the blood, with Joy’s grand-daughter recently having her long tresses cut for the Little Princess Trust, which provides real hair wigs to children who have lost their hair through illness, and donating her sponsorship to
St Luke’s.

“I will miss being part of the team full time,” said Joy, who also plans to spend more time on craft projects. “But I will be a very willing volunteer – I definitely won’t be a stranger!”

We wish Joy much happiness in her retirement.

Central to the compassionate care we provide, St Luke’s nurses are precious. Sponsoring them makes a real difference to patients’ lives, but did you know this invaluable support comes from businesses and other organisations as well as from individuals?

Plymouth Argyle Football Club has put its best foot forward to provide sponsorship for just this cause, and sent some of its players to the specialist unit recently to see for themselves the outstanding care provided by our team.

During their visit, the football players met the nurses and had a tour around the building. They also heard how staff work with patients and families to create lasting positive memories.

“It’s a truly amazing place, there is no detail that goes uncovered” said one of the team. “One thing that really stands out is the amount of care that goes into this place. “My expectation was that it might be kind of morbid but in actual fact it could not be further from that, I think it’s inspirational, not just what the nurses do, but also the doctors and volunteers. One volunteer told me that if she ever needed this sort of assistance she would have no qualms about coming here. That says a lot about the place it really is a brilliant job that they do here, the care that goes into the patients is completely evident.

For young people it’s so easy to turn a blind eye to things like this, being poorly isn’t something that you would like to think about. But there is so much good work that goes on here and if ever we had loved ones coming here, they would certainly see for themselves what a good positive place this is.

This is a place that you must see for yourself to really appreciate how much good work goes on. If anyone had any misconception about St Luke’s, then coming here would let them see how amazing it is.

It has completely changed my perceptions and I have only been here an hour. It’s really clear how important it is to the nurses, how much it means to them. Clearly, it is more than just a job.”

“Plymouth Argyle’s support means so much to us,” says nurse Teresa Bickle, part of the nursing team. “Footballers are role models for children and teenagers and we hope that through their engagement with them the club can help us bust myths around death, dying and hospices. Encouraging the younger age group feel more comfortable around these subjects and telling them about our work will help ensure St Luke’s can continue providing crucial end of life care for generations to come.”

Interested in joining the Sponsor a Nurse program, or want to know more about the work of our nurses? Visit our sponsor a nurse page here.

St Luke’s is much more than just hands on care, our compassionate staff go that extra mile to create lasting memories for our patients.

When specialist unit sister Karen noticed a photo by the side of a patient’s bed it prompted a conversation that led to something extraordinary. The photo was of the patient as a young girl, walking along Salcombe beach.

“If I could do anything before I die, it would be to have one last walk along the beach – but I know it’s just not possible” said the patient. Knowing how much this meant to the patient, sister Karen knew she had to do something.

A few emails and conversations later, staff were rallying across all sites to make this dream a reality. The warehouse team sent across beach related items; nurses visited Mountbatten beach to collect sand and water; and word soon spread to the local garden centre in Endsleigh who also came up trumps with props to assist.

In just 48 hours, The View (previously known as the conservatory) in Turnchapel was transformed into an indoor beach of epic proportions.

“As soon as the patient saw what we had created, she cried.” said sister Karen. “She took off her slippers and put her feet in the sand, paddled in the sea water and rubbed the seaweed between her toes. Being able to touch, feel and smell the beach meant so much to her and brought back her childhood memories. It was just the patient and I in the room, and I felt so privileged to be part of this moment. It was something I will never forget.”

Karen added, “This really captures what hospice care is all about, creating memories and trying our very best to make dreams a reality. It also demonstrates just what an amazing team we have here at St Luke’s and the compassion they have to offer. There was so many departments outside the wards uniting to make this possible, so thank you to everyone involved.”

Weddings, a final boat trip, a visit from a horse, virtual reality diving and now a visit to the beach have all been made possible by our caring staff in the last 12 months alone. No matter the ask, we will always rise to the challenge and create lasting memories for our patients and their families that will last forever.