Behind the masks they’re wearing to protect our vulnerable patients and themselves, there’s always the warmest of smiles.

That’s because our nurses make sure their compassionate care never stops, even in these turbulent times.

Dedicated, sensitive and highly skilled, they’re working day and night to keep our community a kinder place for people who are dying. They know our patients need them now more than ever because heart-breakingly, many can’t have loved ones by their side currently because of safety measures to protect against COVID-19.

 

Archie is one of our team looking after patients at home, helping relieve pressure on the NHS. He said: “I can’t replace a patient’s family, but I can be there to show them they’re not forgotten. It’s not just taking care of their medical needs and making them comfortable, it’s making time for a chat and providing reassurance. So when a lady said she could tell by my eyes that I was smiling at her behind my mask, I knew I’d made a difference.”

With the ongoing support of big-hearted people like you, our nurses can keep doing what they do for patients and their families, which also helps relieve pressure on the NHS.

Whichever way you choose to give and however much you can afford, it is so appreciated.

Thank you.

Click here to make a one-off donation online

Click here to sponsor a nurse with a monthly donation

Click here to donate a bespoke gift

 

 

 

 

 

These are very challenging times for everyone, but for people whose loved one is dying or those who have already lost someone close to them, they are especially tough.

With this in mind, Jutta Maria Widlake, Head of Social Care at St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth, has drawn on her many years’ experience of listening to, and supporting, terminally ill patients and their families to provide guidance she hopes will help anyone struggling with feelings of sadness, anxiety or loneliness at such a vulnerable time.

If you can’t visit your loved one…

The stringent safety measures to help stem the spread of COVID-19 mean the unthinkable has happened and many families are unable to visit their loved ones in hospital or in care homes. Understandably, this is one of the most frightening situations facing people, particularly if their relative is critically ill or dying.

The current crisis means that patients and their families no longer have the choices previously available to them, but some creative thinking can help you and your relative keep in touch even though you can’t spend time together in person at the moment.  Favourite music, poetry, films and prayers can be shared electronically, for example, and you could arrange for staff to place much-loved photographs or other comforting objects from home in your loved one’s room.

While using technology to stay in touch with that special person doesn’t take away the pain of not being physically there beside them, phone calls, or using Facetime or Skype, can help make this very difficult time a little easier, as can recording messages for them and using electronic cards to share memories.

It is also very challenging for hospital and care home staff when there are no family or friends there to help support the person they are looking after. Try to work with those involved in the care of your loved one by keeping in touch with them, and bear in mind that the pandemic situation is fast changing so their organisation’s visiting policy may allow for some exceptions. It’s important to check with them on a regular basis if you are unsure.

If you’re bereaved and feeling isolated…
The social distancing brought about by measures to protect people from COVID-19 mean there are limitations on the everyday activities that bring us into contact with each other. In addition, with each new day seeming to bring more distressing news, feelings of anxiety can be exacerbated.

If you have been bereaved, physical isolation and personal distancing can add to you feeling alone and make grief seem even more overwhelming. In addition, practical concerns and worry about the current situation may make it harder for you to address your grief, which can result in it getting stifled. Remember though, that there are things that can help.

  • Use the technology available to you to keep in regular contact with friends and family by phone, text messaging, email, video calls or social media. Make a commitment to initiate contact with at least one person in some way each day.
  • Look after yourself by getting some fresh air and exercise every day.
  • Try to keep to a regular routine, which can help you sleep better.

St Luke’s bereavement service is here to help you if your loved one had links with our hospice. We can be that listening ear for you over the phone and provide emotional and practical support. There are other services available, too – a good place to start is Cruse Bereavement Care, which has a free helpline on 080 8808 1677, or the Good Grief Trust at www.thegoodgrieftrust.org.

Funerals

Physical distancing is having an impact on how funerals are conducted and the participation of mourners, which is exceptionally distressing when your loved one has died. It may be that very few people are allowed to attend a funeral or that you choose to hold a private funeral  or cremation.

If you can’t attend the funeral, you might want to write or record a message that can be read out by someone who will be there – contact the funeral director for information.

After the funeral, check in with people by telephone, social media or a video call. This is a good opportunity for you to talk about the deceased and share your memories.

You might find it helpful to set some time aside to have your own personal memorial at home. You could take some time looking at photographs of the person who has died, light a candle, write a message to them, or follow any of your own cultural or spiritual rituals.

Providing it is safe to do so, you may be able to visit somewhere meaningful to you and/or the person who has died, keeping in mind current physical distancing rules.

Sending flowers is a simple, yet meaningful, gesture. You can send them to the funeral home or the home of the bereaved.

If you’re sending a sympathy card, you may choose to share a favourite memory of the deceased. A short, simple note can provide comfort and let’s those who are grieving know that you’re thinking of them.

You could also ask if there is an online book for friends and family members to sign and offer their condolences. Family members often find comfort in reading these messages and having them available online makes it easy to look back on them at a later time. In addition, if the social media account of the person who died is still active, you could post a message in memory of them there.

Making a donation in the name of your loved one not only pays tribute to them, but also creates a positive impact on the lives of others.

If you would like support, please call 01752 964200 or email bereavement@stlukes-hospice.org.uk

Now, that’s going the extra mile!

When last Sunday’s Manchester Marathon was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, hours of arduous training throughout the biting wind and relentless rain of winter could have been in vain for hundreds of runners, including Plymouth man Dave Hardy. Instead, though, he took the news on the chin and showed true grit, donning his running gear and completing all 26 miles in his own back garden, raising over £1,400 for St Luke’s along the way!

Resplendent in his St Luke’s running vest, Dave ran diagonally across the small outdoor space at the Ernesettle home he shares with his partner and his dog, Lola. With all the frequent turning required, it took him seven hours to complete his endeavour while his partner kept the drinks station stocked and Lola put her best paw forward to join him for a few laps along the way.

Also lending support was neighbour Sarah, who from across the garden wall read out messages of encouragement sent by Dave’s family and friends, including his running buddies at Ocean City Running Club, in response to videos of his epic run posted by Dave on social media.

Long distance runner turned garden athlete Dave said: “It was quite a lonely run at times but hearing all the messages and knowing the support I had behind me made a huge difference and helped me keep going to get it done. My lawn might be ruined, but I just wanted to do whatever I could to help in this tough situation we’ve all found ourselves in, and I know St Luke’s needs our community’s support more than ever.

“The charity has a special place in my heart because I’ve never forgotten the fantastic care its team at the hospital gave my mum before she died seven years ago. Later, St Luke’s also looked after a colleague of mine, Mike Peonides, at Turnchapel before he passed away. This local care is so important not just for patients but for the loved ones around them, too. We must never take it for granted.”

Penny Hannah, Head of Fundraising, said: “This is such a difficult time for everyone but seeing how Dave turned the disappointment of a postponed marathon into something really special for St Luke’s has really warmed out hearts.

“His kindness and determination show that life on lockdown is no barrier to fundraising when you think outside the box, and we’re so grateful to him and all who donated for raising such a fantastic amount. It makes a vital difference to all the families who so desperately need us.”

You can show your support and donate to Dave here.

Across the UK, hospices are pulling out all the stops to keep running their vital service for people at end of life – and the loved ones around them – despite the many challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Just as with their NHS counterparts, recent events have meant these charities have had to take very tough decisions in order to protect patients and their families, plus staff, volunteers and the wider community, from infection, as well as fast develop new ways of working that ensure their specialist care continues to reach those who desperately need it.

As pressure mounts on our at home team to make its limited resources stretch further during these difficult times, St Luke’s IT department wasted no time in collaborating with their clinical colleagues to hone an innovative solution that’s helping the multidisciplinary team of doctors, nurses and occupational therapists carry out their crucial work both safely and speedily.

With the NHS granting permission for us to use its tried and tested accuRX system – already used by many hospital trusts and GP surgeries for online consultations and text messaging with patients – St Luke’s has worked across teams and around the clock to adapt the system so patient-centred care can be provided remotely when it is not safe to visit patients at home or when the caseload makes this difficult.

AccuRX video-conferencing is user-friendly and works in much the same way to Skype, making it accessible to patients as well as the professionals responsible for their care. Crucially, though, the information shared – be it a video consultation, a patient’s scan or the details of their prescribed medication – is encrypted so that it cannot be deciphered until it is received by its intended recipient.

Aaron Smallshaw, Group Head of IT for St Luke’s and Rowcroft Hospice in Torbay, said: “Given the very serious nature of COVID-19 and the threat it presents to vulnerable patients in particular, we were determined to act quickly to do whatever we could to help ensure their safety and that of our staff looking after them.

“The beauty of accuRX is that it’s already working really well within the NHS as a safe and secure way of sharing information between clinical staff and between them and their patients. Our focus has been on adapting and testing it so that it works equally well for our hospice team, enabling them to provide their outstanding patient-centred care remotely, and reducing unnecessary visits to patients’ homes, which helps keep everyone safe.

“In usual circumstances, it could take months to consult with our stakeholders and build, configure and test a new system, but with the endorsement of the senior management team at the hospice we were able to prioritise our work on accuRX above other duties and fast-track its implementation here within just a couple of weeks.

“It has taken a phenomenal hospice-wide effort and the fact that the system is already helping staff work even more efficiently in ways that ensure their patients’ peace of mind is testament to fantastic inter-departmental working, particularly between IT and our clinical colleagues in the frontline of caring for patients in these challenging times.”

Jen Nicholls, Clinical Nurse Specialist at St Luke’s, is among the first of our clinical staff to use the new system from her home. She said: “Now more than ever, it’s really important we keep as much contact as possible with our patients and their families.

“I’ve already used accuRX with a patient and was delighted it was so easy for them to connect. The picture and sound were clear and I was able to carry out my assessment by them pointing to the site of their pain and from me observing their skin colour and general appearance. I was also able to see their medication boxes on screen and check the dosage, and the patient’s wife held his prescription chart in front of the screen so I could confirm it was correct and up to date.

“I was really impressed by how straightforward everything was and I can see how using the system both now and in the future will have benefits for our service and the people we look after. It’s a game-changer that will enhance our specialist end of life care.”

Sioned Evans, Community Consultant at St Luke’s, said: “Through Project Echo we’ve already been using technology to share our specialist skills with local care home staff and the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust. Now accuRX will help us in our one-to-one consultations with our patients in a way that is reassuring to them and their families while easing pressure on our precious resources. I couldn’t be more proud of the way our teams have risen to the challenge and come together to make it happen so quickly.”

A local man with a big voice and an even bigger heart has proved that when you think outside the box, life on lockdown is no barrier to doing good for your community in these turbulent times.

Currently confined to the home he shares with wife Lise and 20 month old son Alfred talented singer Richard Godefroy hit the right note on Friday 27 March, taking to social media platform Facebook to host an 80s-themed ‘gig’ live from his living room in aid of St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth.

Delving into his repertoire of 80s hits, Richard – who would ordinarily be performing at weddings and corporate events across the South West as part of award-winning The Swing Kings – reached an audience of 22,000 people through their newsfeeds and raised £560 in donations towards the vital service St Luke’s provides for local families across Plymouth and surrounding areas.

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, we have been continuing to work around the clock to ensure terminally ill people approaching the end of their lives are as comfortable and at ease as possible, whether they are at home, in hospital or at the specialist unit at Turnchapel. The £560 raised through the online donations from Richard’s family and friends and others who tuned in means we can provide a package of care and support for a family at home, making a very difficult time that little bit easier.

Richard, who with brother Duncan founded Crown Entertainment in Plymouth, said: “As a singer I’ve been missing performing, so an online gig felt like a great way to entertain people at this challenging time. It also struck me as an opportunity to help a fantastic local cause rather than something national, and that’s why I chose St Luke’s.

“Over the years, I have seen how compassionately they look after people, including family and friends of mine, so it’s a charity that’s to my heart. It’s really important to help keep the service going now so it’s still here for our community in the future.”

Encouraging his online audience to join in the fun from home in 80s-themed fancy dress, Richard took requests as well as singing some of his favourites including poignant hits such as the Bryan Adams classics, ‘(Everything I Do), I Do it for You’ and ‘Heaven’.

Richard said: “I was only live for an hour and 45 minutes so I was astounded by the amount raised and it felt very emotional, knowing that even in the middle of such a worrying time for everyone, people were still giving so generously.”

Thanks to his brother Duncan and good friend Danny Jones also delivering a Facebook Live performance over the weekend, a total of £1,040 has been raised.

Penny Hannah, Head of Fundraising at St Luke’s said: “What Richard has done is fantastic and highlights the creativity and generosity of our community, whose support we need now more than ever to keep our vital service running. A huge thank you to him and all the people who donated. It is so appreciated and really makes a difference.”

People wanting to donate to St Luke’s can do so by searching Richard Godefroy on Facebook.

The outbreak of coronavirus – and the speed at which the situation is unfolding – mean we are all living in unprecedented times, but I want to reassure you that my colleagues and I are doing everything possible to ensure St Luke’s vital service for patients and their families continues. Protecting their safety and well-being, and that of our staff and volunteers, is always our top priority and we are closely monitoring the rapidly changing situation, assessing its implications for our service and making decisions based on official advice from Public Health England.

In common with many organisations, one of the biggest challenges we face is the inevitable drop in funding as a result of the outbreak.

As a charity with only 23% of our annual income coming from the NHS, we rely on the kindness of our community to help us continue making an important difference to local families facing a very challenging time. It is now, more than ever, that we need your generous support to ensure we keep our nurses on the wards and on the roads visiting patients at home in the weeks and months ahead.

Over the years, I have been very touched to see how much St Luke’s means to so many and, while we never take your support for granted, I know you will rise to the challenge. There are lots of ways you can do this, from donating to our charity shops, playing our weekly lottery or sponsoring a nurse to dedicating a leaf on our beautiful Memory Tree. Or, if you’d rather, you can simply make an online donation here.

If you would like to join us as a volunteer, there couldn’t be a better time and we have a wide variety of roles. So, whether you want to give a few hours or a day or two a week, please don’t delay. Apply here.

However you choose to show your support for St Luke’s, please know your kindness counts and is greatly appreciated.

Thank you for your continued understanding and support.

As you’d expect from an event held by family-run firm Drakes Jewellers, this year’s Diamond Gala in aid of St Luke’s was a razzling, dazzling, sparkling success!

With its colourful, fun-filled Rio Carnival theme, the ball at the Crowne Plaza Plymouth was enjoyed by guests who kindly dug deep into their pockets for the raffle and auction prizes donated by generous local businesses. Together, they raised an incredible £24,000, which will help us make a difference to more local families going through the toughest of times.

The ball – where guests were entertained by dancers in feathered finery as well as an amazing band – was part of the 70th anniversary celebrations of Drakes Jewellers and the firm’s fourth supporting our charity, which is close to the heart of the family behind the popular business.

Monique Hirshman, Director of Drakes Jewellers and organiser of the Diamond Gala, said: “It was a wonderful night and I want to thank everybody who made it such a success. There’s no greater gift than giving and the money raised will go a long way to supporting St Luke’s vital work across the community.”

A huge thank you to all at Drakes Jewellers. In total, this big-hearted company has raised over £80,000 for our care!

It’s International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, celebrating the work of those working in these professions and providing a golden opportunity to attract more applicants to such essential and rewarding roles. What better time, then, to hear from someone who busts all the stereotypes and is helping to blaze a trail for men wanting to become nurses, a profession where they make up just 11 per cent of the workforce?

At St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth, Andy Shaw is Head of Community Services, a highly skilled nurse who leads the multidisciplinary team looking after terminally ill patients at home, but in his previous life he could be found ‘eating bears for breakfast and wrestling tigers for lunch’. This is his analogy, which captures the male-only, testosterone fuelled environment in which he excelled as a Royal Marine Commando who rose to Sergeant and Senior Instructor as he served in conflicts across the globe, including in the Falklands, Northern Ireland, the former Yugoslavia and Northern Iraq. It was a regimented world in stark contrast to the compassion and care associated with the nursing career he went on to embrace.

Andy said: “When I joined the Royal Marine Commandos back in 1980, I was doing what was expected of me. Raised in Plymouth, I was a council house lad from a naval family, and it seemed the only careers open to comprehensive schoolboys like me were following your father into his trade, going into the Dockyard or the military. It was even more limited for the girls, shop or secretarial work were the only offers. Options felt very limited.

“In fact, my papers arrived before I even sat my exams and off I went. What followed was an exhilarating 23-year career I enjoyed, and which taught me a huge amount about leadership but, as I later came to realise, I was living in a bubble. I knew exactly what was expected of me 24/7, was surrounded by other men – no women – day in, day out, and was among colleagues who all shared the same opinions as me.

“So, what changed? It was a combination of right place, right time and the fact that I had married and recently become a father, which brought with it a whole new set of emotions and perspectives. It wasn’t until a rep from Exeter University told me and my colleagues our leadership learning could enable us to study at accredited masters level that it hit me – I had the potential to be something other than a Royal Marine, and with the end of my contract in sight I took the momentous decision to embark on a postgraduate study programme ending in a dissertation, a word I couldn’t spell let alone understand!

“It was a complete culture shock. Suddenly, not only was I getting to grips with academic work but meeting people from a variety of backgrounds who held vastly different views to mine. I could feel my attitude changing and the opportunity for a second career was opening up.”

Married to nurse Sue (who is now also part of the Community team at St Luke’s), and having been introduced to both male and female nurses, seeds were sown and, after gaining O and A-levels at night school, Andy embarked on a nursing degree at Plymouth. However, if he thought he’d escaped a world where stereotyping was the norm, he was mistaken.

He said: “When I got flak from my fellow marines, such as nursing ‘only being for women or homosexual men’, it wasn’t a shock, but on my degree course – where just three out of 50 of us were male – I encountered prejudice from some female students, too. Comments such as, “As a man, you won’t understand” and “Typical marine!” weren’t uncommon to hear. Some also assumed I’d be less compassionate than a woman.”

Not letting himself be held back, Andy went on to carve out a career in nursing, working in intensive care. However, even there he found that while female nurses were looking after boys and men of all ages, as a male nurse it was sometimes deemed inappropriate for him to care for young women.

Andy said: “It shows how deep gender stereotyping can go, which is sad and frustrating because it doesn’t just limit career choices but people’s potential, too.”

“Raising awareness is really important, so Year of the Nurse is an extra opportunity to bust unhelpful myths. I already speak at events where I share my story, but it’s really important that change happens in educating children at a really young age – at home and at school – so that we only refer to men in nursing as nurses not ‘male nurses’ and women in engineering as engineers not ‘female engineers’. We need to realise that as parents, employers and teachers the power to effect long-term positive change is in our own hands.”