With this week, being not just the start of the new year but a whole new decade, many will be looking to set goals for themselves or even take on an exciting challenge for 2020 – or beyond!

What better way to push yourself out of your comfort zone than by getting involved in a challenging and exciting event that also benefits your community? We are urging you to put your best foot forward, take a leap or even scale the world’s longest manmade structure to raise funds that ensures care in our community

Today, we have launched not just one but two of our most popular flagship events, Men’s Day Out and Midnight Walk, giving people the chance to celebrate the lives of their lost loved ones while raising much-needed income that helps families make memories together when time is running short.

Men’s Day Out, is loved for the rugby, banter and camaraderie and the unity of walking together raises thousands for St Luke’s. Officially, the region’s biggest men-only sponsored event for charity is back this Saturday 28 March. The event, which is Powered by IU Energy, will see guys gather for a day to remember, striding the city streets before they return to Plymouth Albion RFC for a well-earned pasty and pint and the not-be-missed clash between the home team and their Richmond rivals.

Meanwhile, St Luke’s is inviting ladies to turn Plymouth pink on Saturday 11 July, when its popular Midnight Walk returns. This year, the much-anticipated event, which is sponsored by Nash & Co Solicitors, includes a new challenge – 20 miles for 2020 commencing at 20:20 hrs – in addition to the new 5 and 10-mile routes. That’s not all that’s new, because this year walkers will set off from Home Park (Plymouth Argyle FC) and all will be wearing Midnight Walk’s signature bright pink t-shirts. As always, it promises to be a great night out with the girls, with many walking in memory of loved ones.

Nina Wearne, Community and Events Fundraising Manager at St Luke’s, said: “Whether you take part in Men’s Day Out or Midnight Walk as a personal challenge or to celebrate the life of someone special, please know that St Luke’s could not do what they do without the support from you, our kind-hearted community. Perhaps this is your first time, or maybe it’s an event you enjoy year after year; these events are a fantastic way to have loads of fun whilst making a vital difference for local families.”

For those who’d prefer to take the plunge to show their support for St Luke’s, there are opportunities to take part in an exhilarating skydive on Saturday 21 March sponsored by BT Local Business. The 15,000ft leap is free for those who raise a minimum of £395 in sponsorship.

Looking further ahead – a once-in-a-lifetime challenge – The Great Wall of China Trek is taking place from 6 to 14 November 2021, offering participants an unforgettable adventure. Those who are interested are invited to attend an information evening on Tuesday 11 February 2020 to find out more but don’t hold back as registration is already open.

Nina Wearne said: “As well as being a mesmerising experience hiking along one of the most famous structures in the world, this is an opportunity to soak up China’s vast variations in landscape, culture, wildlife and heritage – not to mention cuisine! It’s a fantastic way to do something different and also make a difference.”

Details of these and all St Luke’s flagship fundraising events are available here.

Martin York, who was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer at the age of 55, has spoken out to urge men to be vigilant in checking for symptoms of the disease and not let embarrassment keep them from getting the simple check-ups that could save their lives. He wants to leave a legacy to the men of the city to help protect their health.

With prostate cancer affecting 1 in 8 men, Martin is passionate about spreading the message that, while the disease tends to occur in those aged over 65, younger men are also at risk and that getting diagnosed early can improve the prognosis for those who have the condition.

Martin said, “I was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer in 2017, and the disease had been doing its worst inside my body for three to four years so I went straight onto chemotherapy. It was very debilitating and I spent most of the next five months in bed.”

A keen Plymouth Argyle FC supporter, Martin was keen to give something back to the club and at their invitation spoke to the players in the dressing room to share his story and help raise awareness of prostate cancer and its symptoms.

He said: “Men don’t like talking about anything below their belts, which is ridiculous. It’s too late for me, but it’s not too late for others. If you’re in any doubt at all, see your GP for a simple check-up.”

Martin, who has been married to Penny for 24 years, came into the care of St Luke’s expert team when he needed help to control his pain and was admitted to the our specialist unit at Turnchapel.

Just as passionate about debunking unhelpful myths around hospice care as he is about urging men to prioritise their health, he said: “I went in not knowing what it would be like, but I was very pleasantly surprised how friendly, light and airy the unit was. It was like a five-star hotel.”

St Luke’s specialist care and support for Martin did not stop when he made the decision to be discharged home. Thanks to the charity’s multidisciplinary At Home team, which looks after half of all the patients St Luke’s sees across Plymouth, South West Devon and East Cornwall, everything was in place to make his transition from the unit as smooth as possible.

Penny said: “A lot of people think that when you go into the hospice building, you’re never coming out again. This couldn’t have been further from the truth for Martin, and it was his choice to come home. The day he returned was remarkable, with all the kit already in place, thanks to St Luke’s occupational therapist Shaen. He made sure Martin had everything that was needed, from easy chairs and hoists to a special bed.

“Martin is a very special man, I will always be grateful to St Luke’s for this gift they’ve given us – Martin at home where he belongs so we can have this precious time together knowing that if we need it, help is just a phone call away. The kindness and sensitivity of the team is making such a difference to us at a really difficult time.

“I am incredibly proud of Martin and want to echo his words to other men: If you have even the slightest concern that something is wrong ‘downstairs’, go straight to see your GP. It could save your life.”

For ‘warm, funny and fearless’ Lynne Roper of Mary Tavy, a paramedic who was passionate about outdoor swimming, ‘passing it down the line’ didn’t need to end at her death. “People can swim and take me with them,” she said.

Lynne did not mean this literally. Living with a brain tumour, she knew her condition was terminal, but she was determined to see the adventures she recorded about her sixty-plus wild swims published to inspire others to swim wild, ‘read water’ and take educated risks as she did.

St Luke’s cared for Lynne at Turnchapel before sadly, she passed away in 2016, and it was while she was in our care she met writer Tanya Shadrick, who she entrusted with her diaries for posthumous publication.

Thanks to Tanya’s tireless editing, the diaries became the book Lynne had envisioned, ‘Wild Woman Swimming – a Journal of Westcountry Waters’. Not only was it published in 2018, following consultation with Lynne’s parents, Mike and Jenny Roper, this year the book went on to be longlisted for the prestigious Wainwright Prize for Nature Writing.

In keeping with Lynne’s wishes, profits from the sale of the book are benefiting St Luke’s, and recently Mike and Jenny, together with Lynne’s brother Dave and her friend Sophie Pierce – who wrote the introduction to the book – visited Turchapel to present our Community Fundraiser Pete Ward with a cheque for £1,000.

Mike and Jenny said: “We will be forever grateful to St Luke’s and all the doctors and nurses for the tremendous, loving care our daughter received in the last six weeks of her life.”

Peter said: “St Luke’s was privileged to care for Lynne in the last weeks of her life, and we are so grateful to her parents for this generous donation that will make a difference to more families who need our help during a very challenging time.”

Wild Woman Swimming’, a ‘book for outdoor swimmers, nature lovers and all who prize the wild and free’, is published by The Selkie Press.

Across Plymouth, South West Devon and East Cornwall, our network of charity shops is supported by a legion of customers snapping up bargains, generating vital income to support our service. But did you know that while many of the items they buy have been donated directly to the shops by our kind-hearted community, a large proportion of stock comes via the hive of activity that is our Distribution Centre at Plympton?

This centralised support centre run by an industrious team of staff and volunteers is crucial to the smooth-running of St Luke’s retail operation, which – as well as 33 charity shops – includes our eBay and Amazon stores that enable us to sell far beyond our surrounding area. Mark Kendall, Logistics and Warehouse Manager, explains what it takes to deliver a distribution service that ensures our customers are never short of quality and choice.

Mark said: “While some of St Luke’s shops are ‘self-sufficient’, receiving a steady stream of goods directly from supporters, the Distribution Centre provides an alternative drop-off point. It’s where our team sifts through thousands of donated items and decides which shops to send them to.

“These not random decisions though – they’re informed by regular information we receive from Area Managers John Saunders and Kerry Hearn and shop managers, who have expert knowledge of what sells best at each store. They know that what’s popular at Modbury, for example, doesn’t necessarily fly off the shelves in Plymouth city centre. We also have portfolios with details of each shop, its location and community demographics, to which the team can refer when they’re sorting donations. This is important because we have a duty to our donors who give us goods, and to our charity itself, to get the best possible price.

“Retail presence online is also key to generating funds, and our charity uses eBay and Amazon to reach a much wider audience, including overseas, to sell donated items that are rare or collectable, such as vintage toys and first-edition books. That’s why the Distribution team includes staff and volunteers who are collectors with a trained eye that helps them spot ‘treasure’ likely to attract a higher price online than in our shops.

“Embracing technology has also enhanced our large-item furniture collection service that’s provided seven days a week to ensure our five shops stocking new and second-hand furniture receive a regular supply.

“Thanks to St Luke’s investment, we now have a telemetry system that enables us to be much more efficient. The drivers of our leased vans are equipped with electronic tablets with in-built sat-navs so that the Retail Admin team knows where they are at any given time and can plan the most efficient routes for them, giving the donors they’re collecting items from an estimated time of arrival. This reduces wait times, helping St Luke’s maintain its excellent reputation. I’m proud that other charities are seeing what we do here as the ‘gold standard’ and aiming to follow our example.

“Innovation is also important when it comes to doing our bit for the environment. Donated items that can’t be sold in our shops are recycled wherever possible because they can still bring in valuable income from the companies who pay us for them. In fact, there’s enough to fill the three 3.5-tonne vehicles that collect from us five days a week! Unsellable items are taken off to recycling plants around the world and we aim to be ethical and avoid them ending up in landfill wherever possible.

“The market for recycling is very volatile though – for example, the price we can get for textiles has dropped ten pence per kilo in the last 12 months – so I keep a close eye on which companies pay best and we use them accordingly. It’s all part of maximising income to build resilience for our charity.”

“There’s much more to what we do at the Distribution Centre than most people realise. We regularly welcome volunteer teams from local companies, who really enjoy it for team-building and it’s great for raising awareness of St Luke’s. We also work with the DWP to help people who’ve been out of work for some time gain new skills and build confidence through volunteering, which can help them go on to find paid employment, including – in three recent cases – with St Luke’s.

“Of course, none of what we do would be possible without such a dedicated team of staff and volunteers rolling up their sleeve’s day in, day out – not just getting things done but doing them to such a high standard. I want to say a big thank you to each and every one of them.”

The launch of the city-wide partnership showed how aspiration is being turned into action across Plymouth, benefitting people at end of life.

Back in May 2018, at the Plymouth: a Compassionate City conference hosted by St Luke’s and attended by organisations ranging from schools and places of worship to solicitors and voluntary groups, keynote speaker Professor Allan Kellehear threw down a challenge to those present, saying: “Every day, people die and hearts are broken. 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.”

This rallying call to build on the good work already happening across Plymouth to make our city a more compassionate place for people at end of life, and those caring for them, was met with overwhelming support. So, nearly 18 months on, at the launch of the End of Life Compassionate City Charter Professor Kellehear urged Plymouth to adopt, it was an opportunity to see how groups and organisations have been working together, turning aspiration into action so that no-one feels left behind.

Having a city-wide end of life network working in partnership with the City Council, as well as other public bodies and local charities, is already beginning to ensure that Plymouth is a city that does not shy away from the ‘taboo’ subjects of death, dying and bereavement but talks openly about them. In fact, Plymouth has the accolade of being recognised at England’s first Compassionate City, but this is just the beginning.

The Compassionate City initiative is being led and co-ordinated by Gail Wilson, Deputy Director of Clinical Services at St Luke’s. Gail said: “Across the city and the wider communities there are many examples of individuals and groups going the extra mile to support people during times of sickness, bereavement and loss, from providing a listening ear to helping with practical things such as walking the dog and collecting shopping.

“I have been amazed by what various organisations and individuals across the city have achieved in the past 18 months, with the support of the compassionate community team at St Luke’s . This is a really a great start but there is much more to do, so I would encourage anybody who wants to be involved to sign up to the network and join us, so together we can create compassionate networks where we live and work so that no-one at end of life or experiencing bereavement and loss feels isolated or alone.”

Steve Statham, Chief Executive of St Luke’s, said: “We have a key role to play in supporting our community and networks in times of crisis and loss. This charter is about how we can work together towards extending the support we give to people at a most difficult time in their life”.

Ruth Harrell, Director of Public Health for Plymouth, said: “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 work together to create a city that does not shy away from their needs but provides a compassionate collective response.”

Once the last of the turkey sandwiches are eaten and there are only repeats on television, thoughts naturally turn to the year ahead and what’s in store. So, recognising it’s a popular time for making resolutions and seeking a new challenge, we’re set to launch two of the city’s most hotly anticipated fundraising events for 2020, our Men’s Day Out and Midnight Walk, early next year!

Meanwhile, those who want to take on a once-in-a-lifetime challenge further afield and experience an iconic bucket-list destination as they raise money for St Luke’s are signing up to our exciting Great Wall of China Trek taking place 6 – 14 November 2021.

This unforgettable adventure, hiking along one of the most famous structures in the world, is an opportunity to do something different in a culture so unlike our own while raising sponsorship that will make a difference to families much closer to home. See the fundraising pages of our website for more details.

Recently, representatives of St Luke’s clinical and non-clinical teams headed north for the annual Hospice UK Conference, the flagship event that brings together those involved in leading hospice care for adults, young people and children.

At the event in the heart of Liverpool city centre, close to the waterfront of the world-famous Mersey, our team joined hundreds of their peers from hospices up and down the country to hear the latest thinking on the key issues affecting the services we all provide.

With an increasing ageing population and people developing more complex conditions, standing still is not an option for hospices, which was reflected in the title of this year’s conference – Dying for Change.

Steve Statham, Chief Executive of St Luke’s, said: “The theme was not just evolving but revolutionising hospice care to meet the challenges ahead. The conference gave us the opportunity to focus on how we can develop what we do so that it meets the ever-changing and complex needs of a growing and ageing population.

“Sharing ideas and challenging current ways of working means the sector can develop radical new solutions to take hospice care forward. We need to evolve what we already do as well as being revolutionary.”

The conference also highlighted the public support for hospices, with £1.15billion raised: “We owe everything to the generous public. Last year 225,000 people were helped by hospices, up 8% year on year. We have also seen a vast increase in care at home.”

Did you know that nationally, 64% of charity trustees are men and that the average age of a trustee is 61? (Source)

We’re pleased to say our board is more diverse, but we’re striving to ensure it is truly representative of the community St Luke’s serves. That’s why – with it being national Trustees’ Week (4 – 8 November) – we not only want to thank the dedicated men and women who kindly give their skills and time free of charge to govern and guide our charity, but also highlight the opportunity for you to join them.

With the recent launch of our five-year strategy setting out our ambitious goals for the next half-decade, it’s a particularly exciting time to get involved as part of our Board of Trustees.

Trustee, Charles Hackett, said: “Being a trustee at St Luke’s supports my personal development but more importantly allows me to use my skills to help, in some way, the community in which I live.”

Being a trustee with St Luke’s can be rewarding for many reasons, including a sense of making a difference with a well-respected charity that touches the lives of local families to gaining new experiences and forging new relationships. (For an insight into our recent work, take a look at our latest impact report.)

Fiona Field, who sits on the Organisational Risk and Audit Committee and chairs the Health & Safety Committee, said: “I give about one day per month on average, this is divided between being a member of the board, chairing the health and safety committee, visiting teams across St Luke’s and taking part in some of the fundraising activities. I have regularly attended the Open Gardens in the summertime, sold programmes on Plymouth Hoe at the Firework Championships and walked the Elmer Trail. I am also the named trustee for both the Launceston and Tavistock retail shops so visit them both periodically, usually buying something on every visit as well!

“I find the work interesting and rewarding and I am always proud to talk to others about the brilliant work that everyone at St Luke’s does for such a worthy cause. I am keen that the services St Luke’s offers continue to be of the highest quality possible for our patients and their families locally.”

We’re seeking people with the knowledge, skills and motivation to help ensure that as St Luke’s evolves, we continue to make wise decisions that mean we can meet the challenges ahead, including reaching underrepresented groups who sometimes struggle to be heard.

As well as contributing to board meetings, you’ll have the opportunity to use your skills with a sub-committee that makes best use of your specific area of expertise. There’ll also be opportunities to further your experience through hearing from guest speakers and attending national conferences.

If you have a background in community development, including education, or in HR, we’re particularly keen to hear from you.

For more information, please contact Sarah Gore at sgore@stlukes-hospice.org.uk.

When news came that a patient at St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth who desperately wanted to spend precious time with her horse would see her wish fulfilled, the charity’s Communications and Marketing team sprang into action to ensure the horse’s visit to the specialist unit’s grounds to be with his loving owner was captured on video, just as she and her husband wanted. You can read the story here.

Viewed by over 500,000 people online, this moving film not only meant a great deal to the patient and her family, it perfectly illustrates the way the skills of the team dovetail to create impact for St Luke’s, telling our stories both internally to colleagues and externally, including to new audiences as well as loyal supporters.

As with all departments across our charity, it is always ‘patients first’ for this very busy team, led by Head of Communications and Marketing, Robert Maltby, who has been with the charity for over six years. No matter what other work is scheduled, they recognise that prioritising the needs of those in our care is an essential part of making sure they feel special despite their very difficult circumstances.

Robert said: “The film is a great example of the additional people skills involved in our work. It would be easy to think as an outsider a 30-second video is fairly quick and simple to produce. In reality, behind the scenes it took our team of four several days, with many interactions with the patient and their family, to build trust and deliver something that was both respectful and met everybody’s expectations. You are dealing with a situation that can change by the hour and re-purposing content for a multitude of platforms.”

“As a manager, I also have to ensure the health and well-being of my team are a priority, encouraging them to open up about the emotional challenges they may face when working on such an emotive story. It can be very emotionally challenging, but it is a real privilege to be involved with a family at such a personal and private time.”

 

Robert added, “While for many healthcare professionals there are support mechanisms in place, for example ‘clinical supervision’, St Luke’s should be praised for going over and above to support non-clinical staff. Often for every patient video or photo the wider pubic may come across, there are many more videos the team are involved in that stay private for the family. If support wasn’t in place it would ultimately take its toll.”

While the team of four spends much of their time collaborating to make sure the public and other stakeholders, from healthcare professionals to local authorities, are better informed about our vital service, through brochures, feature articles, media relations and social media, they also work hard to meet our charity’s need to engage donors and people willing to fundraise for us to ensure our work continues for generations to come.

From creating and delivering innovative, high-impact print and digital campaigns that help rally thousands to take part in our flagship events such as Tour de Moor and Men’s Day Out, to crafting creative content for Hospice Care Week and the Impact Report, Robert, Jesse (Graphic Designer), Rhianne (Digital Communications Officer)  and Paola (Communications Officer) take pride in producing work that not only boosts awareness but reflects well on the highly professional and compassionate organisation we are.

This commitment to high standards extends to St Luke’s retail network, too. Robert said: “With our chain of over 30 charity shops, as with all our print and digital materials, making sure St Luke’s branding is ‘on point’ is crucial. Our team’s work to build, enhance and protect it is an important part of maintaining the high profile and high esteem we hold in the community and attention to detail really matters. So, whether it’s shop signage, staff uniforms, web pages or leaflets, we are here to make sure the look is right.”

Read the brand and communications guidelines that are the bible behind a great Communications and Marketing team.

When you factor in that the team is also responsible for all St Luke’s social media across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn, key internal communications through the intranet and St Luke’s TV screens, and working with the media to deal with their queries and promote important news about our charity, you realise that they are masters of multi-tasking and time management!

The challenges?  “I think our communications challenges are the same as every other hospice in the UK, and that is around the public’s understanding of how hospice care has changed over the years,” said Robert. “People will associate hospice care with a building. That was St Luke’s over 35 years ago. Over 50% of our care is now delivered at home with only 5% in our traditional hospice building.  Taboos around talking about death and dying, and understanding we are about more than just cancer and go beyond serving the city of Plymouth also are communications barriers. However, we are making great progress to change perceptions with stakeholders by ensuring simple key communications messages flow through all our channels at every opportunity.”

What makes a good communications and marketing strategy? “I firmly believe the key to a successful hospice communications and marketing strategy is all about storytelling and a focus on the people. It is not necessarily about the ‘ask’ to get loyal stakeholder buy-in,” said Robert. “As many of my fellow hospice communications professionals will concur, there is a lot more behind the glossy fundraising posters and social media posts. From protecting the reputation of the charity to horizon scanning for new trends and technology, many of these daily tasks happen unnoticed. The future of digital communications is exciting. As regional media declines outside our major cities, becoming self sufficient with your digital content has the potential to reach far greater audiences than relying on a traditional media release”.

Robert concluded, “It’s definitely a challenge though because not only are there so many teams needing our support, we also get affected emotionally when we are meeting patients and their loved ones and telling their personal stories to the world – that’s part of what makes us human.”

Read the stories behind St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth.