In our ambition to be a ‘Hospice without Walls’, taking our compassionate end of life care to more people regardless of their circumstances, we have been reaching through the walls of Dartmoor Prison to look after inmates facing their last days – and have won prestigious national recognition for our pioneering project!

As finalists in the Delivering Dignity category of the Burdett Nursing Awards, which celebrate good nursing practice, the team behind this groundbreaking work, St Luke’s Community Nurse Specialists Martin Thomas and Derek Hart, plus Care UK’s Sheridan McGinlay, who they work alongside at Dartmoor, were in London recently for the glittering awards ceremony.

They were ecstatic to not only take first prize in their category, securing a £20,000 grant, but to receive the accolade of being overall winners of the awards, adding an extra £10,000 to their pot so that they can build on the project’s success.

It was in 2015 that St Luke’s launched the End of Life Care in Dartmoor Prison project aimed at improving access and increasing end of life care for prisoners, helped by a Burdett Trust grant.

Since then, in an environment many would find challenging, Martin and Derek have helped change the way Dartmoor delivers end of life care, creating a blueprint for other prisons in the process.

Despite its 630 prisoners, an ageing demographic and high levels of chronic diseases, the prison was referring just a small number of patients for specialist palliative care. As was apparent to our team, this was related to a lack of understanding of, and low expectations around, end of life care. However, with the prison’s Healthcare Team keen to change this, our team worked in partnership with them to facilitate positive changes through regular meetings and clinics, as well as staff training.

Thanks to this approach, and despite considerable challenges around prison security, the internal drug culture and Victorian prison wings, the number of prisoners accessing end of life services has increased seven-fold, care is patient-centered and integrated, and there is greater choice for prisoners in the care they receive.

Importantly, the prison’s culture is now more compassionate. A ‘buddy system’ is seeing inmates support each other by giving practical help to the less able, and they are also receiving training to become listeners. In addition, there’s now a dedicated wing for those who require care, and good take up of St Luke’s Advance Care plan, which lets staff know the individual’s wishes if that person is unable to speak up for themselves in their last days.

Speaking about the awards, George Lillie, Deputy Chief Executive at St Luke’s, said: “It’s fantastic that our dedicated team has received such well-deserved recognition, and encouraging that working in partnership is bringing our compassionate care to those who are often forgotten. Well done to everyone involved!”

In a hospital environment, a sensitive approach to necessary but difficult conversations with patients’ families is key. In Derriford Hospital Plymouth space is very tight and a creative solution has been sought to provide staff there with guidance to enhance communication at these times.

To help with this, the hospital called on the expertise of Dr Sioned Evans, Consultant in Palliative Medicine at St Luke’s, who worked with colleagues to develop the SPACE initiative. Based on established good practice in communication, the plan is to role it out across the hospital to help staff prepare and plan for sensitive conversations.

“We chose the acronym SPACE because space is both the problem and the solution,” said Sioned.

For more information please call St Luke’s hospital team (Level 8) on 01752 436744.

Love and laughter filled the air at our specialist unit at Turnchapel recently, when our team helped Domminick, a patient there, and his wife Hilary celebrate the renewal of their wedding vows.

The touching service in the Harbour was followed by a joyful wedding reception in our specially decorated Conservatory for visiting family and friends of the couple.

The pink flamingo theme chosen by Domminick and Hilary reflected their fun personalities and raised lots of smiles, with the bride – who arrived by vintage car – sporting flamingo pyjamas and slippers, and guests enjoying flamingo cupcakes with their champagne.

Also on the menu were ‘poo’ cupcakes, which – along with the groom’s poo-themed slippers – were a light-hearted way the couple chose to reference Domminick’s bowel cancer.

Hilary said: “Raising more awareness of bowel cancer and the signs of it are so important. People need to talk more about poo! Also, we should speak more openly about hospice care because, as our special day showed, hospices can be such happy places where memories of love and fun are created.”

The beautiful flowers, including Hilary’s pretty posy and Domminick’s button-hole (worn with his Muppets t-shirt), were kindly donated by Plymstock florist, H Watts.

Keen to go the extra mile to make the day even more special, our team transformed Domminick’s room on the ward into a honeymoon suite, complete with rose petals on the bed and ‘love nest – do not disturb’ sign on the door.

Sister Karen Thorrington said: “The whole occasion was so lovely, happy and uplifting, fulfilling Domminick’s wish for it to be all about the couple celebrating their love for each other. He wanted to create a lasting memory for Hilary of fun, not sad times.

“A huge thank you to all our staff and volunteers who pulled together to make it all so special, full of precious memories.”

Over a hundred people from a wide range of organisations, from the arts and the NHS to schools, solicitors, churches and charities, gathered in Plymouth last week to discuss ways of collaborating to make the city more compassionate for those at the end of life, or living with bereavement and loss.

As a growing city (a predicted 300,000 residents by 2032) with a rising number of over-65s, there are increasing demands on health and social care resources as care becomes more complex and end of life needs grow. New ways of delivering services are needed, and Plymouth has already started to make strides in developing a more inclusive approach to end of life care, with the conference being a call to do more.

The Compassionate City conference on Thursday 17 May was facilitated by St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth as part of Dying Matters Awareness Week to highlight the positive work currently happening across the city while encouraging co-operation to address existing and future challenges.

According to the Compassionate City charter to which Plymouth has committed, ‘a compassionate city is a community that recognises that the natural cycles of health and sickness, birth and death, love and loss occur every day across our society. It defines a compassionate city as one that recognises that care for one another at times of crisis and loss are not solely a task for health and social services but everyone’s responsibility’.

Key speaker at the conference, 50th Anniversary (End of Life Care) Professor Allan Kellehear from the University of Bradford, said: “Every day people die and hearts are broken. While we can’t prevent death, by working collectively we can help prevent the harms that can accompany it, such as depression and job loss.

“Death and dying are more than medical issues and caring for those affected is not just the role of the doctor and the chaplain. End of life care is everyone’s responsibility and we all have a practical role to play. The measure of success is how many people enrol in this.”

Fellow speaker Carole Burgoyne, Strategic Director for People at Plymouth City Council, said: “The Compassionate City Charter for end of life care gives us all a framework to work towards and as a Council we fully support this approach and want to work with our community to make this aspiration a reality.

“By taking a public health approach to end of life care, we can give a voice to all those affected by death, dying, bereavement and loss and create a city that does not shy away from their needs, but together provides a compassionate collective response.”

Those at the conference heard inspirational case studies demonstrating a compassionate and joined-up approach to end of life care, including the work of St Luke’s and its partners at Dartmoor Prison and George House Homeless Hostel in Plymouth.

There was a call by Gail Wilson, Deputy Clinical Director at St Luke’s, for people to sign up to become Compassionate Friends and make personal pledges to support those at end of life or suffering from bereavement or loss. She called for communities to form compassionate networks in their areas so that no-one feels isolated or alone. Such networks can receive free training through the St Luke’s Compassionate Communities development programme, which aims to form new ways of working between communities and services to improve end of life care locally.

Delegates also learned about the Advance Care Plan (ACP) card that can be kept in wallets and purses. Pioneered by St Luke’s, the card highlights to all that there is a personal plan which states the future wishes of the individual. This will help staff ensure the wishes of the person, as far as possible, are respected and acted upon should they be unable to speak up for themselves in their last days.

In addition, round table discussions focused on action plans to develop a compassionate city with collective actions for schools and colleges, care homes, places of worship, and city cafes and other social spaces.

Speaking about the conference, Abenaa Gyamfuah-Assibey, St Luke’s Community Development Worker, said: “It was really encouraging to see so many organisations and groups represented and engaging enthusiastically in the thought-provoking discussions at this event.

“The day was a huge success in developing a communal vision of Plymouth as a Compassionate City and putting ideas into action to ensure positive outcomes that will support everyone at times of difficulty and loss, regardless of their age, culture or background.

“We now want to harness all of this energy through the end of life network to realise our aspiration for Plymouth to become recognised as England’s first Compassionate City for end of life.”

Find out how you can become a compassionate community.

Known as ‘the stuff of legends’, the Marathon des Sables is the toughest foot race on Earth.

So we have been blown away by the awe-inspiring achievements of two friends who have shown true grit (and then some!) by completing this most gruelling of challenges to support us, raising a fantastic £8,000 – and still counting.

Their personal reasons for getting behind our charity enabled Jamie Shewbrook and Jonathan Gliddon, who live in Plymouth, to muster the huge mental and physical strength needed to endure the multi-stage, mixed terrain race, which covers over 156 miles in the harshest of environments – the Sahara Desert.

Jonathan’s decision to support St Luke’s took on extra significance for him when his cousin Richard was admitted to our specialist unit at Turnchapel just before the race. Knowing time was running short for Richard, and that he was receiving our compassionate care, enabled Jonathan to dig extra deep and overcome chronic back pain, disturbances of vision, heatstroke and having to have each toe lanced daily to complete the incredible challenge.

Jonathan said: “The race takes you to extremes – not just physically but mentally, too. When I felt ready to quit, knowing Richard was at St Luke’s gave me that extra push to keep going despite the pain and harsh conditions.

“Incredibly, on the final day of the race I seemed to get extra strength from somewhere and it wasn’t until after I’d finished that I learned it was then that Richard had passed away.”

Before taking on the Marathon des Sables, Jamie – who saw three friends receive St Luke’s care – had already raised an amazing £27,000 for us, including conquering Mount Kilimanjaro in 2003, trekking across the Arctic with huskies, cycling to John O’Groates and more.

Completing the Marathon des Sables had long been a goal for him, and finishing 97th out of 1,000 was the icing on the cake!

He said: “Each day of the race got harder and harder for different reasons, whether it was the terrain, heat or distance. The longest was Day 4, when I covered over 53 miles in 13 hours 17 minutes.

“The long stage was the most gruelling but also the most satisfying. I knew then that all I had to do was complete a marathon on Day 6 and I would have achieved my goal.

“All the way through, it helped to know I was making a difference for St Luke’s. Most people in Plymouth have been touched or know someone who has been cared for by the team. It’s such a fantastic local charity and really needs our support.”

Well done, Jamie and Jonathan! And thank you so much – the money you have raised will make a big difference.

We hope you’ve been enjoying a well-deserved rest!

When it came to choosing the right person to cut the ribbon at the opening of its new charity shop in Southway, St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth knew just the woman for the job!

Maxine Carter, who lives locally, bravely had her head shaved on her 55th birthday earlier this year, raising almost £5,000 for the charity that cared for her father-in-law at its specialist unit at Turnchapel following his cancer diagnosis.

Her head shave, which took place at the Falstaff Inn in Southway, was something Maxine had been planning for five years while she grew her hair long. Prior to performing the shave, hairdresser Jenny King divided Maxine’s hair into four plaits, each measuring 16 inches, so that they could benefit the Little Princess Trust , which provides real hair wigs free of charge to children who’ve lost their own hair due to illness.

Maxine’s endeavour was supported family and friends who sponsored her, and a raffle at the event further boosted her total.

Speaking about her reasons for supporting the charity, Maxine said: “St Luke’s is important to me because of the fantastic work they do. My mum passed away 37 years ago this August and as a family we had no support from anyone, just a district nurse to visit once a day for personal care. It was really tough.

“But when my father-in-law was diagnosed with cancer, it was St Luke’s who made such a difference. He received great care and as a family we felt well supported.

“I have been overwhelmed at how generously everyone has got behind my fundraising, and I felt very proud to be asked to cut the ribbon at the opening of the new shop.”

There’s no stopping Maxine, who is and taking her bravery to the next level and planning a skydive in aid of St Luke’s.

She said: “I always say to people, you never know what is around the corner and one day they might need the services of St Luke’s. It is a local charity and every penny counts. They need our support so they can carry on the fantastic care they give.”

People wanting to support Maxine can do so via her fundraising page at www.justgiving.com/Maxine-Carter1

When we lose someone close, memories are more precious than ever. They help us feel connected, and cherishing them is an important part of celebrating a loved one’s life.

Creating a memory jar for your written memories and messages can be so helpful and that’s why we have our St Luke’s memory jars. They are available to everyone regardless of whether your loved one was cared for by our team.

Indoors, the jar can be a lovely ornament, while outside at night its glowing lamp can help lighten your thoughts and perhaps your spirits.

You can add to the jar over time and even get other members of the family to contribute, so that every generation can play their part in creating a wonderful keepsake. And if you bought a jar last year, you are welcome to buy a second.

We will display all the memory jars created this year in the peaceful surroundings of Plymouth Hoe Garden, which will be open to the public from 6 to 28 May, between 3 – 7pm Monday to Friday (up to 10pm on Thursday), and 12 – 4pm at weekends and bank holiday Mondays.

By day, the local community will be able to visit to see the keepsakes and pay their respects to those no longer with us. By night, the individual solar lights in the jars will illuminate them, shining brightly over Plymouth Sound.

Everyone who creates a jar is invited to a non-religious service to launch the display, at 3pm on 6 May. With heartfelt readings and poems, it’s an opportunity for remembrance and reflection.

Head of Social Care at St Luke’s Jutta Widlake said: “Every day at St Luke’s we are supporting people who have lost a loved one to a terminal illness. We know that it is always a very difficult time and that sometimes, grief can rob them of their memories of the person they’ve lost.

“We understand how important it is to remember your loved ones – memories are precious and powerful. We want to give people the opportunity to remember the good things and happy times by creating a memory jar they can add to over time. If they want to, they can invite family to contribute their memories too, so that every generation can be involved. The jar can be a talking point and might also lift their spirits.”

Supporters are encouraged to collect their jars from the garden on 30 or 31 May so that they can keep it and add to it over the years.

You can create your own memory jar to join the display at www.stlukes-hospice.org.uk/memoryjar

Bold, bright and a real delight – that’s Elmer’s Big Parade, coming to Plymouth in July 2019. Last month, we shared with you news about this exciting St Luke’s project with Wild in Art and Andersen Press, which will see 40 unique Elmer the Elephant sculptures form a colourful, enchanting and educational trail across our city next summer.

A key part of the project involves established and emerging local artists being invited to submit their designs for our Elmers so that each one is bespoke. It’s these sculptures that will be sponsored to raise money for St Luke’s and later auctioned for our charity.

However, the first Elmer is already complete and attracting much admiration! It’s the handiwork of highly successful local artist Brian Pollard whose ‘naive’ images including landmarks such as Smeaton’s Tower have achieved a global reputation.

When we spoke to Brian at the recent Elmer launch, he explained why he was delighted to be involved, saying: “I have supported St Luke’s previously by contributing Christmas card designs and so on, and it was a a great honour when the charity approached me about this project.”

Brian, who worked as a GP for many years, went on to describe the sometimes challenging process of painting a three-dimensional surface, after being so used to working with flat surfaces.

“It took around eight weeks to complete the painting of my Elmer, working five days a week,” Brian said. “And some areas are so difficult to get to that you have to break off the ends of the brushes to reach them. Also, using acrylic paint means some of the colours are quite thin – I gave the yellow flowers on the face and trunk nine coats. There was a lot of refining, but it was great fun – apart from the effect on my back and my knees!”

Local artists are being invited to submit their design ideas this June. To find out more, visit www.stlukes-hospice.org.uk/elmer.

Rock not only raised the roof but an amazing amount for St Luke’s at the recent annual live music extravaganza at Crash Manor in Plymouth.

The two-day event saw 20 bands, including Rusty Angels and Funky Munks, play for no fee, attracting a big crowd and resulting in £12,635 raised to help us continue caring for patients at the end of life – a record amount for Rockfest in the ten years it has been supporting our charity.

Cuz Cussen is the force behind Rockfest, which he started 17 years ago, fundraising for various charities close to his heart. It was following the death of his beloved mum Dot, in May 2008, that he decided to donate all the money raised each year to St Luke’s.

During the last few months of her life, Dot received our care and spent her last few days at the specialist unit at Turnchapel. Seeing first hand the dedication of our team meant St Luke’s gained a special place in Cuz’s heart, which has spurred him on to raise an incredible £90,000 for us.

Cuz said: “I’m blown away at how generously everyone has supported Rockfest, from the bands and the venue to the businesses who donated raffle prizes and everyone who came to the event. A huge thank you to everybody who has gone the extra mile, including my wife Lyn and close friends.”

Thank you so much to Cuz and everyone who helps make Rockfest the big success it is. We really appreciate your support!

Two ladies with treasured memories of loved ones will be among those getting their glow on to celebrate the life of someone special at our Neon Midnight Walk on 21 July.

Julie Barton will be striding the streets alongside friend Diana Powell. Julie was a long-serving member of the team at Toshiba and is joining fellow ‘Toshettes’, including Diana, for our charity walk.

Julie is putting on her trainers in memory of her sister-in-law Donna, who passed away aged 51 in 2016, and close friend Toni, who died last November, also aged 51. Both were cared for by our specialist team.

Julie said: “Toni and Donna were both such special people. Donna had such an engaging personality – she was loved by all who knew her. I will always remember Toni’s crazy humour and strength. Even the week before she died, she was determined to make it into town to buy herself some new clothes – and she did.”

Diana also has personal reasons for getting involved. She said: “My husband Tony was passionate about raising money for St Luke’s. In 2016 he did some cycling events for the charity, but unfortunately passed away a couple of weeks after that. This my attempt to continue raising money on his behalf.

“I first came across St Luke’s about 15 years ago when a friend’s father was in Turnchapel and I was actually quite stunned about the level of care and compassion. St Luke’s is a caring place and the whole of Plymouth knows that. We need to keep on raising that profile and keep getting the money through to them.”

The Neon Midnight Walk is sponsored by Nash & Co Solicitors. Registration is £22 and includes an exclusive neon t-shirt, as well as a medal and goody bag for all finishers.

If you’d like to register, you can sign up at www.stlukesmidnightwalk.co.uk