The incredible staff at St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth are bursting with pride this week as the government’s care regulator rated the service they give as outstanding, an accolade currently given to less than 3% of the organisations they inspect.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) looked at the work of St Luke’s for a week earlier this year, visiting both its specialist unit at Turnchapel and the team of nursing and social care staff coordinating people’s care at home. Across the board the hospice team offered, “outstanding end of life care which enabled people to experience a comfortable, dignified and pain-free death,” says the report.

It’s the little differences, believes the hospice team, that take the care to the next level; such as the report’s mention of the attention paid to “people’s individual social and psychological needs.” This includes supporting families with children with a play area and “ways to engage with young children such as providing a paddling pool.”
Stuart Elford, Chairman of the St Luke’s Board of Trustees said, “This is an important and well-deserved recognition for the staff and volunteers who make St Luke’s the special place it is by working tirelessly with devotion and dedication to excellent standards of care. The ‘outstanding’ accolade will be no surprise to the patients of St Luke’s or their families who consistently comment on the high quality of the service provided. On behalf of the board I offer our sincere and heartfelt thanks and congratulations to the whole team for all their efforts which have resulted in being awarded this outstanding rating.”

In a ringing endorsement of the hard-working local charity, people and relatives that spoke to the inspector said the, “staff approach was exceptionally kind and compassionate,” leaving the CQC to conclude “people were at the heart of the service” and “all aspects of their medical, emotional and spiritual needs were personalised.”
The CQC expert also picked up on the charity’s ethos of community saying the service did “excellent work” on continually looking at what local people needed, such as the innovative Crisis Team to reduce unnecessary hospital admissions.

And to make this whole idea of people-centred care work the staff are “exceptionally well-trained and had excellent knowledge of each person”, allowing them to go, “that extra mile to ensure people’s needs were met in a holistic way, including support for people’s loved ones.”

A CQC report is filed based on evidence collected by an expert to reach judgements about whether caring services are safe, effective, caring, responsive and well-led. Conclusions are then considered by an independent panel before publication. The full version of the latest St Luke’s 2016 inspection outcomes will be available on the CQC website shortly.

According to the regulator’s own data, 994 healthcare providers were rated in the last month (as of 19 October 2016). Of these 28 (or 2.8%) rated as outstanding. Overall, just 0.7% of all organisations matched or exceeded the St Luke’s report by receiving outstanding ratings in four areas or above.

People in East Cornwall can now access a new 24-hour specialist nursing service as St Luke’s extends the work of its Crisis Team to help people in and around Looe, Liskeard, Saltash, Callington, Torpoint and Launceston from 15 August 2016.

The innovative pilot initiative from the local hospice charity provides terminally ill patients a 72 hour window of specialist care at home to stabilise symptoms, avoid any unnecessary admission to hospital or facilitate rapid discharge from hospital or hospice back home.

The team will work in close partnership with other community health and social care providers in East Cornwall to enhance end of life care services and offer solutions to crisis situations where a patient does not have care arrangements in place. For example, if they need to quickly return home from hospital and their family needs help to look after them.

George Lillie, Clinical Director of St Luke’s explained, “This is an important pilot project that we envisage will lead to a closer working relationship with Cornwall Hospice and other community providers that will see investment and development of services in end of life care within Cornwall. GPs, district nurses and other healthcare staff can now easily refer their patients to our team and we look forward to providing crucial care to families in times of crisis.”

The service already runs in and around the Plymouth area and has helped get people home who don’t need to be in hospital and supported hundreds of families to respect their loved ones wishes to die at home.

Dawn Tame-Battell, Director of Patient Services for Cornwall Hospice Care said, “We welcome this development and will work closely with St Luke’s. We’re monitoring the pilot project with interest and hope that we could discuss our involvement in the development of similar services across the whole county in the future. All our hospice services continue to operate in Cornwall and patients can still choose to be cared for by us if they wish.”

St Luke’s is a charity organisationand receives no funding for crisis interventions, relying instead on the generosity of the community to be able to offer this kind of vital support. In 2015, the hospice needed to raise an additional £4 million to supplement the money it receives from the NHS to provide its services, including admissions to its specialist unit and end of life care at Derriford Hospital, for people in the East Cornwall area.