While the hands-on medical care St Luke’s provides is outstanding, our holistic approach means we’re also there to give patients and their loved ones unwavering practical, emotional and spiritual support, too.

Providing this is our Social Care team, reaching out to people across the community in the midst of very challenging circumstances. Among the team for the past ten years has been Social Care and Bereavement Support Worker Janet Hearl, so as she left to start her retirement earlier this month, it was with immense gratitude for her contribution that we said farewell.

Before Janet left, she took the time to give us an insight into her role over her decade with our charity.

She said: “Before coming here I had many jobs, including Bed Manager at Derriford Hospital, but I always wanted to join St Luke’s.

“I began by working alongside a social worker and my role evolved as I gained experience in lots of different situations, because no two patients or families are the same. There’s so much variety to what we do.

“Naturally, it’s devastating for someone whose time is running short, and very challenging for their family, too. It’s about coming alongside them, being that empathic yet ‘neutral’ person they can be open with and express raw emotion. I’ve been there to listen and provide a reassuring presence that can make things that little bit easier, especially as there are sometimes complex family issues involved.

“It’s practical help, too, because at such times things can easily feel overwhelming. I’ve given advice and support to help patients get their affairs in order, which brings them increased peace of mind. Sometimes families need assistance with sorting out financial issues, and often with funeral arrangements as well.

“It isn’t about ‘solving’ problems,but being there for them at a very difficult time and, when appropriate, signposting them to other organisations who can help.

“It’s very rewarding and I’ve loved being part of a multidisciplinary team. There’s a wealth of experience between us, and I’ve enjoyed working closely with our nurses, OTs and physio – we all support each other. It’s those relationships, as well as memories of patients and families, that will stay in my heart.”

As Janet retires to spend more time with family, travel and continue volunteering with Jeremiah’s Journey, the legacy she leaves is the many families she’s helped and also the knowledge and experience she has imparted to colleagues.

We wish Janet a long and happy retirement.

If you want to make Mother’s Day extra special this year, don’t miss the launch of our annual Open Gardens scheme on 31 March, when beautiful Gnaton Hall in Yealmpton will throw open its gates in aid of St Luke’s so you can enjoy its delightful gardens.

There’s so much to see and explore, including the stunning display of daffodils and peaceful woodland walks. You can enjoy delicious cakes, too. All this, plus the chance to win the framed original of artist Brian Pollard’s enchanting Open Gardens tenth-anniversary brochure cover in our raffle.

View our Open Gardens brochure online!

Today, when so many transactions are done online, there are those who miss the kind of everyday, doorstep greeting of the milkman. So, when your lottery fee is collected at your front door, it’s about more than money changing hands. It’s a familiar smile, a shared joke and the type of friendly banter that lifts the spirits.

So it was with great sadness that his friends at St Luke’s, and those who play our weekly lottery and pay their fee in person rather than online, learned that Lottery Collector Robert Gore – known as Bob – passed away recently.

For the subscribers who met Bob every four weeks as he did his door-to-door collection rounds across Plymouth, Ivybridge and Modbury, he was a familiar, friendly face who always took the time to ask after them, swap a story and check if they needed any practical help, such as a letter posting. And, over the 19 years he worked his patch, he became fondly known as ‘Bob in the shorts’ due to his habit of sporting them, every day from April until the end of October.

A proud ex-Royal Marine driver whose career also included railway work and improving opportunities for adults with learning disabilities, Bob was recruited to St Luke’s in 2000, after his daughter Sarah, who works for our charity, highlighted the vacancy for a Lottery Collector.

Sarah said: “At first, dad took on the role mainly because he knew I thought so highly of St Luke’s, but he soon realised just how much the charity means to so many others, too.

“On his rounds he’d hear from families about the comfort they’d received from St Luke’s at a really tough time, and it wasn’t long before he himself was providing reassurance for those who needed end of life care. He could tell them with confidence that St Luke’s would help them live well until the end.”

And when Bob became terminally ill himself, it was St Luke’s who cared for him, as well as supporting his family, including wife Margaret, Sarah and her brother Alistair, and grandchildren Daniel, Chloe and Phoebe.

Sarah said: “Seeing the team looking after dad I witnessed firsthand their compassion and ability to quickly build up a great rapport. Thanks to them, he was able to pass away peacefully with us at home – even chatting away until shortly before he died and enjoying precious time with little Phoebe.

“Dad was an amazing man, full of fascinating facts and great humour. I will always have such happy memories of our family picnics and the kindness he showed everyone, including his many lottery customers.”

Bob’s unwavering support for St Luke’s even extended to his funeral, which was family flowers only with donations invited for our charity.

Learn more about St Luke’s Lottery.

Seeing a loved one’s face light up thanks to the kindness and amazing attention to detail of a St Luke’s nurse is something you treasure long after that person has passed away.

When Sister Karen Thorrington went above and beyond to create a ‘beach’ in the conservatory at Turnchapel so patient Kerri Thomas could fulfil her wish of feeling the sand between her toes one last time, relative Jess Warren’s heart was warmed. And it’s this treasured memory that recently inspired Jess, who co-runs wax melts company Queen of Tarts, to organise a showcase of small businesses to raise money for St Luke’s.

Jess said: “I will never forget what Karen did to give Kerri the most wonderful time. She got everything just right and Kerri was speechless. Our fundraising event was a way of giving back to St Luke’s and expressing our thanks for such amazing thoughtfulness that made a difference to someone so special to us.”

Not only did the showcase at Derriford raise the profile of St Luke’s as people came out to buy locally made products, it brought in £110 for our specialist care. Further proof of the high esteem in which our charity is held across the community.

Learn more about fundraising for St Luke’s.

Cuz said: “Cathryn was amazing, caring for mum with such compassion and sensitivity at home so we could spend precious time with her there. In fact, mum was able to remain at home with us almost until the end, when she required care at Turnchapel in her final few days.

“It was lovely to get the opportunity to meet Cathryn again all these years later. I’ll always be so grateful to her and the rest of the team for being there in our time of need, helping us at such a difficult time. It was great to be able to express that to her in person.”

It’s the memory of much-loved Dot – and his gratitude to Cathryn and her colleagues – that has inspired Cuz on his mission to raise an incredible £100,000 for our charity through Rockfest, the annual live music extravaganza he founded, which has built up a large, loyal following since it began 11 years ago.

This year’s event, happening over Easter weekend at Crash Manor, Union Street, is once again a must for lovers of live music, including genres ranging from rock to reggae. And, with £90,000 already raised from previous years, thanks to Cuz’s hard work, the bands who kindly perform for free and the local businesses who donate raffle prizes, that Titan of a target is within touching distance.

So, if you want to enjoy the electric atmosphere and help Cuz reach £100,000 for St Luke’s, helping more families who need us, roll up on 20 and/or 21 April and get your tickets on the door.

You can find out more, including the line-up of bands here!

As well as expert hands-on medical care, helping families make the most of every moment together when a loved one is approaching their last days is all part of the compassion for which St Luke’s is renowned.

So, it was only natural we were there for a young Plymouth family recently, when our team was caring for much-loved Matt Geoffrey as he faced the unthinkable – that time together with his wife Sarah and their children, Eloise and Dylan, was running short.

Just 42 when diagnosed with cancer in 2016, trained lawyer Matt was working as a contracts manager, suited and booted on the surface but a fun-loving ‘tattooed rock monster’ at heart.

Sadly, while his prognosis was initially good, by early 2017 the family was facing the heart-breaking reality that the treatment he’d received had not halted the spread of the disease.

In the face of such devastating news, Matt somehow maintained his hallmark positivity though, and he and Sarah were united in their decision to be as open with Eloise and Dylan as it was possible to be given their respective ages of ten and three, and – as much as they could – to maintain normal life as a close-knit family.

Sarah said: “Matt was always a hugely fun-loving person and that didn’t change after his diagnosis. He was determined to carry on working, but we also made sure we continued to do the things we’d always enjoyed. He and Eloise went to karate together, we had a family holiday to Euro Disney and we also went to festivals – music was always a big passion for us.”

Among the festivals they attended Boardmasters in Cornwall was an annual highlight, so last summer – despite Matt’s declining health – he and Sarah felt it important that their family should not miss out. And, with the help of specialist Dr Doug Hooper from St Luke’s, they were indeed able to pack their bags for the event.

These weren’t just any bags though! Alongside the suntan lotion and picnic blanket was the host of medication Matt required. But not only did Dr Doug provide the prescription for all that was needed for him to be as pain-free as possible, the kind-hearted clinician wrote a letter to accompany it, knowing the festival organiser’s policy of carrying out bag searches before admitting people to the site.

Sarah said: “Being at Boardmasters was extra special because Matt and I knew this would be the last really big thing we’d do together with the children. Despite torrential rain, we had a brilliant time and I’m so grateful to St Luke’s that we’ll always have those precious memories. Matt’s stash of ‘Class A’ narcotics would have got sent us home – or worse – if it wasn’t for Dr Doug!”

Sarah also credits our charity with helping Matt realise his wish of being looked after at home, with her and the children carrying on as normally as possible around him, as he approached the end of his life.

From supplying equipment to help him remain as independent as possible to encouraging the family to approach things in the way that ‘felt right’ for them, our team was alongside throughout those final weeks, including being there to support Eloise and Dylan as they faced the loss of their beloved dad.

Sarah said: “Matt was determined he did not want to die in hospital, and it was St Luke’s that helped make a plan so that he could be at home, including supplying a wheelchair and special bed.”

“Their support also meant our kids were able to be kids, which was amazing for us, and Lisa built up such a good rapport with them that I felt complete trust in her. Her visits before Matt passed away and since have lifted some of the pressure and that means so much.

“St Luke’s have been there all the way through, making it possible for us to still be a family, and without them Matt could not have lived to the end in the way he wanted to.

“It’s really hard to sum up how I feel about everything they have done for us, but they have been like our family’s professional comfort blanket. I can’t thank them enough.”

With the tills ringing at one recently launched retail outlet to further support for its vital service, one of the city’s best-loved charities has just cut the ribbon on another!

Earlier this month, St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth, which looks after thousands of terminally ill patients and supports their families when time is running short, opened its new pop-up charity shop selling good quality second-hand furniture in the former Toys ‘R’ Us building at Western Approach.

It’s been a flying start for the new venture, with enough items sold within the first hour of trading alone to help three more families at home – not just through expert hands-on medical care for the patient, but emotional and practical support for them and their loved ones, too. Through the duration of its lease on the site, St Luke’s aims raise enough to provide such help for 200 families.

As well as selling sofas, wardrobes and other furniture, the space is home to Herd HQ for Elmer’s Big Parade*, the sculpture trail which goes live across Plymouth this summer and is expected to attract 250,000 visitors exploring the city to see the enchanting elephants each painted by a talented local artist.

This week – Monday 11 March – saw some of the artists start work on their masterpieces inside the building, where over coming weeks local people are encouraged to pop in for a preview of the fun to come!

Monday also saw St Luke’s – which relies on the support of the local community to keep providing its compassionate care – open a new store on The Broadway, Plymstock, where members of its Urgent Care Service** cut the ribbon.

Modern and bright, the new shop opposite the Costa coffee outlet on the Broadway replaces the store formerly at Dean Hill. But while the site is new, the remit remains the same: to sell quality pre-loved clothes, books, toys and bric-a-brac at bargain prices, raising funds to support St Luke’s specialist care.

Mike Picken, Head of Retail at St Luke’s, said: “Our annual retail income is a critical contribution to keep St Luke’s running. That’s why it’s so important that we seize opportunities to not only continue to meet the needs of our existing much-valued customers but attract new ones as well.

“It’s fantastic to see our centrally located pop-up shop get off to such a great start, and we need to maintain maximum visibility further afield too, across all the other areas where we provide our care. Our new store on the busy Plymstock Broadway is located among well-known high-street brands with more big names rumoured to be moving in nearby soon, so we’re ideally placed to attract more customers to support our vital service.”

Gary Durbin, Manager of St Luke’s the new Plymstock charity shop, said: “There has been a real buzz around the launch of our new shop here in the heart of the local community. We’re proud of our attractive store and it’s great to see it busy already with lots of bargain-loving customers keen to support our charity.”

The new shop is open 7 days a week, including Sunday’s 10am to 4pm, welcoming customers and new donations, too.

For more information about Elmer’s Big Parade.

One in four terminally ill people in the UK are missing out on the end of life care they need, according to research by national hospice and palliative care charity Hospice UK, which is running its Open Up Hospice Care campaign this March – aimed at widening access to this vital support for people living with life-limiting conditions and those who care for them.

The campaign highlights that hospice care is available to everyone, including people who want to be looked after in the place they call home.

Tracey Bleakley, Chief Executive of Hospice UK, said: “With its focus on comfort not cure and promoting quality of life and what matters most to people, hospice care can help them live well until the end of life and support their loved ones, and it is available in more places than most people realise.

“We want to share the benefits of hospice care more widely so that everyone is able to get this vital support and wherever they want.”

While local charity St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth is joining 70 counterparts up and down the country in backing the campaign, it is specifically shining a light on the terminally ill among the homeless population and those living in remote rural communities, two of the groups currently most at risk of being overlooked when it comes to getting expert care in their last days.

In keeping with its ethos of looking after people ‘no matter where’, St Luke’s is committed to reaching and supporting those who need its compassionate care, regardless of their circumstances or location.

For people living in rural areas like Dartmoor though, accessing all sort of services – including end of life care – can be harder than it is for their urban counterparts, so the need for friends and neighbours who look out for each other in times of crisis is more important than ever.

George Lillie, Clinical Director at St Luke’s, said: “While we never turn anyone away, we know there are people who, for reasons such as homelessness and isolation, can find it more difficult to access our specialist care.

“There’s no denying it can be more challenging to meet their needs than it is for us to help patients in more ‘traditional’ settings, and that’s why St Luke’s is spearheading work that encourages open and honest discussions in the communities we serve. Together, we can find creative ways to encourage friends and neighbours to look out for each other and lend support, particularly in challenging times, so that no-one is left behind.”

It was a combination of St Luke’s at home service – with nurses on the road 365 days a year – and the compassion and support of family, friends and neighbours that made a difference to a Tavistock family recently. Jointly, they came alongside local woman Margaret Westlake to ensure she could be looked after as she wished, at home, in her final days last December.

Margaret, who was a Wren during the war and rose to the rank of Petty Officer, spent most of her life living and working in the Tavistock area. Her giving nature saw her make a big contribution to the life of the local community, including giving 21 years’ service to youth work with the Scouts, Guides and other groups, for which she was recognised with the Mayor’s Award.

Having lost her mother when she was just eight years old and later her son, Brian, when he was 21, Margaret was no stranger to tragedy. Her resilience and caring nature were evident to all, however – never more so than when she and husband Roy chose to foster brother and sister John and Sue, providing a loving and supportive home.

So, it was both heart-breaking and challenging for the family when time was running short for much-loved Margaret, who was living with cancer.

John, who lives in Bristol and visited his mother regularly, said: “Mum was such a strong, talented and supportive person, always thinking of others, and it was very hard seeing her quality of life decline. It was important to us that she received the high-quality care she deserved at home, where she wanted to be looked after.

“It was St Luke’s who enabled us to ensure mum’s wishes were met, and I don’t know how we’d have coped without their superb care. As her health declined, their support increased. This meant she was able to remain in familiar surroundings, with her pain relief carefully managed, which was also a great comfort to us.

“Her care was so well co-ordinated between St Luke’s staff and the district nurses, and at every stage mum’s dignity was respected. It was clear the professionals looking after her thought of her as a person, not just a patient. They developed a real rapport with her, and we were touched by their compassion and attention to detail, not just for mum but for us as a family.”

As John explains, it was this team effort – which included help from family and friends – that ensured Margaret’s care was second to none. He said: “As well as being very grateful to St Luke’s for their outstanding care, which gave us peace of mind, we so appreciated the support given by Heidi, a family friend who lives locally. She went above and beyond to be there for mum, which was very reassuring to me, especially at those times when my responsibilities in Bristol meant I could not be with her as often as I wanted.”

St Luke’s aims to help everyone live well to the very end of their lives, so if – like Heidi – you would like to be that compassionate friend or neighbour and help make a difficult time that little bit easier, you can access free training and support from the charity. Find out more at www.stlukes-hospice.org.uk/compassionatecommunities.

You can read more about St Luke’s work in opening up hospice care to everyone who needs it – and how you can help – online here.

One in four terminally ill people in the UK are missing out on the end of life care they need, according to research by national hospice and palliative care charity Hospice UK, which is running its Open Up Hospice Care campaign this March, aimed at widening access to this vital support for people living with life-limiting conditions and those who care for them.

The campaign highlights that hospice care is for everyone, including those who want to be looked after in the place they call home.

Tracey Bleakley, Chief Executive of Hospice UK, said: “With its focus on comfort not cure and promoting quality of life and what matters most to people, hospice care can help them live well until the end of life and support their loved ones, and it is available in more places than most people realise.

“We want to share the benefits of hospice care more widely so that everyone is able to get this vital support and wherever they want.”

While local charity St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth is joining 70 counterparts up and down the country in backing the national campaign, it is specifically shining a light on the terminally ill among the homeless population and also people living in isolated places across the areas it serves, two groups currently among those most at risk of being overlooked when it comes to getting expert care in their last days.

In keeping with its ethos looking after people ‘no matter where’, St Luke’s is spearheading open conversations about the challenges of ensuring its vital service reaches all who need it, so that nobody has to die alone, in pain or in distress.

George Lillie, Clinical Director and Deputy Chief Executive at the charity, said: “St Luke’s is a hospice without walls, and many of those for whom we provide care want to receive it in the place they think of as home, whether this is in a ‘traditional’ setting, or whether they live in a remote area, a care home, a hostel for the homeless, or even in prison. Terminal illness does not discriminate and neither does hospice care, so it’s important that we work closely with the communities we serve to address the challenges so that no-one is left behind.”

Often having poor health and shorter life expectancy, and with no fixed abode, homeless people can be particularly vulnerable yet may not be known to a GP or other health professionals.

When ‘home’ is a hostel bed or a sleeping bag in a doorway, and when there’s no family or friends around to provide support, what happens when your time is running short? Who is there to show compassion and give care then?

Acknowledging the challenges of reaching and supporting people who are often living transient lives, St Luke’s is pioneering work with other local health and social care providers that can help ensure the homeless are not forgotten at such times.

St Luke’s Specialist Nurse Gilly Barringer said: “It’s important to us that no-one who needs our care is ever turned away, so we’ve been reaching out to terminally ill people among the homeless in our city by working closely with charity Shekinah and the George House Hostel. My role has involved getting to know the professionals in these organisations to gain a better understanding of the challenges faced by them and the people they support.”

At George House Hostel, which provides 48 of the city’s 250 beds for homeless people, Gilly has been working with staff so that with their facilitation she can come alongside any residents identified as in need of St Luke’s compassionate care.

She said: “With people who are homeless, it can be quite challenging having these sensitive conversations because often they move from place to place. However, working with the hostel staff enables me to build a relationship with the terminally ill person, even if I sometimes have to seize the moment and be quite opportunistic in my approach.

“As I get to know them, we discuss their needs and wishes relating to their care and where they want to be looked after, which for some is within the hostel because that is what they regard as home. It’s so important to have these conversations particularly because sometimes, due to drug or alcohol abuse, their care needs can be more complex and their deterioration more rapid.

“Working with the person, their GP and hostel staff means together we can put a tailored plan in place to help ensure they’re where they want to be, receiving the high-quality care they need, at end of life.”

Sean Mitchell, Manager at George House Hostel, said: “With the need for our services increasing but resources shrinking, initially I had reservations about us getting involved with end of life planning for the people we help. However, working with St Luke’s we have mutual respect for each other’s skills and collaborate in the best interests of any terminally ill residents who need this specialist care at George House.

“With the training and support St Luke’s provides, we are much better equipped to help them realise their wish of ending their days in a more positive way here, with people they know around them, rather than dying alone in hospital or on the streets.”

You can read more about St Luke’s work in opening up hospice care to everyone who needs it – and how you can help – online here.

We’re excited to announce the opening of our new shop in Plymstock.

Located opposite the Costa coffee shop on the Broadway, the store will open on 11 March following the closure of our shop on Dean Hill on 6 March. So, if you’re in the area, pop by and see Shop Manager Gary and his wonderful volunteers, who will be joined by members of our Urgent Care Service nurses, who will be cutting the ribbon at the new shop at 2.30pm on the big day.