In the past few months, death has become a greater part of public life, with so many families sadly losing loved ones and with the media focus firmly on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. But are we getting better at talking more openly about the ‘taboo’ subject of death or do we still hold back because although we’re comfortable with it, we fear others aren’t?

We’re firmly behind the national annual Dying Matters Awareness Week campaign (11 – 17 May) to encourage more honest talk about death, dying and grief, recognising that this helps those affected feel listened to and understood.

To mark this year’s campaign – Dying to be Heard – national charity Hospice UK has revealed new findings from Savanta ComRes that show that 72% of those bereaved in the last five years would rather friends and colleagues said the wrong thing than nothing at all, and 62% say that being happy to listen was one of the top three most useful things someone did after they were bereaved.

Meanwhile, a recent local survey carried out on behalf of St Luke’s, found that just 24% of those polled said they felt ‘very comfortable’ talking about death.

With many people facing the unexpected death of loved ones due to COVID-19, Hospice UK is calling for people to take courage and speak to people about death and bereavement to support those in our society who are dying or grieving.

Tracey Bleakley, CEO of Hospice UK, said “What these findings show is just how important it is for us all to talk about death and grief, particularly when as a nation we are facing higher numbers of unexpected deaths as a result of COVID-19. These issues sadly have a taboo about them, which is unhealthy and can leave people suffering in silence. We owe it to each other to take part in these conversations. So many people are dying to be heard, and we all need to listen.”

In an additional new poll from Opinium on the public’s reaction to COVID-19, while 71% of people agree with the lockdown restrictions, nearly half (48%) said that not being able to see someone before they died or attend a funeral would make it harder to accept the reality of the death. This poll also found that 62% said that not being able to see a dying person before they died would cause a lasting sadness, and one in six (59%) said that they would want a celebration of the person’s life after the lockdown is lifted.

In addition, the survey found that more than 11 million people – 1 in 5 UK adults – have put in place advanced care plans (ACPs) in case they fall ill because of COVID-19, or plan to do so.

As part of our service, we encourage people to create an ACP, a personal statement of wishes that can ensure – as far as is practically possible – that their wishes are respected and acted upon should they be too ill to speak up for themselves in their last days. Having an ACP can bring increased peace of mind not just for the person concerned but for the loved ones around them, too, making a very stressful time that little bit easier.

We also provide emotional, practical and spiritual support for those whose loved one had links to our service before they died.

Jutta Widlake, Head of Social Care at St Luke’s, said: “As a society, we don’t discuss death openly, and because people are living longer most of us don’t experience the loss of someone close to us until we’re well into midlife. Death is a normal part of life though, and we shouldn’t feel held back from talking about it because we fear others might feel uncomfortable if we do.

“As the national survey results show, silence isn’t always golden because most bereaved people welcome friends’ and colleagues’ efforts to help, even if those people are afraid of saying the wrong thing. So, taking that step to express your support – and being there to listen – are among the most important things you can do.”

You can pledge to take part in a conversation about dying, death or grief, either initiating it or taking part if someone else starts it. An online pledge wall and other ways for people to share their pledges can be found here.

For more information or

1,341 cyclists taking on mud, sweat and gears to clock up a combined 34,602 miles; 84 dedicated volunteers braving the elements – this is what it takes to raise vital funds to keep the wheels of local hospice care turning.

What does it take to make a young terminally ill patient ‘feel like a princess’ in the last days of her life?

Chloe from Callington, Cornwall was just 22 when she came to our specialist unit at Turnchapel to be cared for by our team in December 2017. We pulled out all the stops to create a home from home for her and her loved ones. We helped them make precious memories together, too.

Sadly, Chloe died a few days later, in January 2018.

Here, Chloe’s mum Claire shares her experience of the devastating loss no mother should ever have to face and pays tribute to kind, caring, fun-loving Chloe. Hear how the precious moments they shared when time was running short – and the lasting legacy Chloe has left – bring comfort to Claire in the midst of heartbreak.

Our end of life care is here for young people as well as the elderly. You can help our charity to keep making a vital difference for them and their families 365 days a year, including this festive season – please donate today.

Thank you.


Tina Favis of Salcombe was so loved that in every year since she sadly died in 2007, aged just 40, her family and friends have got on their bikes to fundraise for St Luke’s in celebration of her life.

The epic annual Ride for Tina is their way of thanking our team for the sensitive way they cared for this special lady and supported them throughout such a difficult time.

But that’s not all! It speaks volumes about Tina that even many people who never met her join in and go the distance too, including from Land’s End to John O’Groats! Together with Tina’s loved ones, they’ve raised a staggering total of over £115,000 for our vital service! We couldn’t be more grateful.


A homegrown hero of the storytelling world, who has ignited the imagination of millions worldwide with his bestselling children’s books featuring fiction’s favourite elephant, is returning to Plymouth for a very special event!

Plymouth born David McKee, celebrated author and illustrator of the much-loved Elmer storybooks – which have sold a staggering 10m copies around the globe – is in the city for the 30th anniversary of his first Andersen Press Elmer publication and he’s set to launch Elmer’s Big Parade, Devon and Cornwall’s biggest art event of 2019, on Monday 8 July.

The Parade, an enchanting trail of 40 unique elephant sculptures lovingly painted by established and emerging artists, including internationally renowned Brian Pollard, will spread a smile across Plymouth and surroundings for ten weeks until 16 September.

The free, family-friendly event – a collaboration between St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth, Wild in Art and Andersen Press – is expected to attract 250 thousand visitors to Plymouth and surroundings, as well as encouraging local people to get outside to discover each member of the mammoth mob, taking them to places they may not have been to before. Along the way, it is expected to bring a huge boost to the local economy, benefiting businesses from shops to restaurants.

These are no ordinary elephants – they’re on an important mission to raise awareness and funds for St Luke’s and the vital service the charity provides, looking after terminally ill patients and supporting their families when time is running short.

Each of the sculptures is sponsored by a local organisation, including businesses of all sizes, with headline sponsor for the event being Stagecoach South West, the region’s leading bus operator.

The much-anticipated Parade is the culmination of months of preparation as the 40 artists selected to paint an ‘Elmer’ worked their magic, some of them based at Herd HQ within St Luke’s pop-up shop selling quality second-hand furniture at the former Toys R Us store at Western Approach, where they have welcomed visitors keen to get a sneaky peek before the big reveal of the finished masterpieces.

A key part the Parade is the educational programme that has engaged 10,000 students across 25 local schools, generously funded by the Thomas Cook Children’s Charity.

Not only has the St Luke’s Education team encouraged the schools to have tonnes of fun learning more about art and creating their own unique mini Elmer, all of which will be on display at Mount Edgecumbe, they’ve come alongside school staff to enhance their confidence and skills in supporting children living with loss.

It’s estimated that 1 in 29 children – one is every class – has experienced the death of someone close to them, so St Luke’s is working with teachers and other staff to encourage more open conversations with youngsters about death, dying and bereavement, which – when conducted sensitively in an age-appropriate way – help ensure no child feels left behind.

Elmer’s Big Parade Plymouth officially launched early this week at a special preview evening, where all 65 Elmer’s were gathered together under one roof for a big reveal to sponsors and artists. Alongside local artists including Brian Pollard was a very special guest – David McKee.

Elmer creator David McKee, grew up in Tavistock and was educated in Plymouth he said: “The pleasure that you can feel that the illustrators and painters have had working with this, there’s a real excitement to be had with this project, which is incredible.

“I’m 84 now, so I’ve seen the way hospices help families. The hospice isn’t just a building that people go to – while it is a big part of it, an even bigger part is all the work which is done in the actual homes of the people who are suffering. A lot of people would prefer to stay in their own home, and St Luke’s helps them to do that.

“To find out there’s such a high percentage of children who know bereavement through the loss of someone close, and that St Luke’s is very involved in helping the children get through those periods, it’s incredible.

“It’s quite emotional really, knowing that something you started that long ago is not only still around, but new things from others have been made because of that. I suppose in a way, there is a sort of responsibility which you feel. Especially when you realise that it’s not just decorative – the cause is such a good one. Helping St Luke’s in any way is a good cause.”

On meeting David, local artist and St Luke’s patron Brian Pollard said, “It was such an honour to meet and talk to the famous creator of Elmer, David McKee. David was delighted to see his creation come to life with the wonderful creativity of mainly local artists. I was surprised to hear that he had also visited a local gallery to view my paintings and he went on to make some positive remarks about my artwork.

“I think I can speak for all the artists when I say we are all honoured and delighted to be involved in such a wonderful fundraising project, for a charity that is so close to all our hearts.” Brian’s Elmer will be on display outside the Theatre Royal Plymouth.

For many of the artists, the trail has a real personal connection. Local artist Colin Pethick’s involvement was a chance to support St Luke’s and at the same time pay tribute to his wonderful wife Zheng, for whom the charity cared for before she passed away he said: “It was so inspiring to see all the Elmers together, truly mind boggling how so many fantastic ideas have formulated from one form, good old Elmer. To meet David was such an honour. I was moved greatly by the smaller Elmer’s also and the participation of the school children. It is so important to me as an artist that we inspire and encourage the young creative minds and also through that process educate on the notion of bereavement. That for me was why I was so pleased to be invited to take part in the project. It was such a valid form of cathartic release for me personally. Thank you again St Luke’s for everything.” You can see Colin’s Elmer titled “The Beauty of Transcience” displayed on Plymouth Hoe.

St Luke’s Chief Executive, Steve Statham, said: “The wait is over and it’s time for the grand reveal of Elmer’s Big Parade! We couldn’t be more excited to see everyone get out and about across our city’s iconic locations to follow the herd.

“The Parade is going to be a real delight for people of all ages as they explore on foot and interact with the social media side, too. Along the way, they’ll learn more about the outstanding care and support St Luke’s provides for patients at home, in hospital and at our specialist unit at Turnchapel.

“We believe everyone deserves to live well to the end, and it’s only thanks to the kindness of our community that we can sustain our service, being there to make a difference and helping families through the most challenging of times.

“The support of local businesses is a critical part of this, and the way they’ve got behind Elmer’s Big Parade as sponsors is heart-warming. There’s still time for more to be part of one of the city’s biggest events and get their brand in a prominent position seen by thousands – a great opportunity to raise their profile while doing good.

“To everyone who has put in the hours and gone the extra mile to make this fantastic summer extravaganza happen, I want to say a huge thank you. It would not have been possible without our hardworking staff and volunteers, as well as our sponsors and the companies who have given in kind. I feel very proud to be part of such an incredibly caring community.”

Bob Dennison, Managing Director of Stagecoach South West, the headline sponsor of the trail, said: “We are thrilled to be Presenting Partner and supporting such a wonderful charity. We will be working to help raise awareness of Elmer’s Big Parade Plymouth and the incredible work done by St Luke’s, and of course help raise vital funds. We work to support a range of local community causes in the South West, the very communities we help bring together through our local bus services. It’s fantastic to see the excitement about the trail already starting to build and we are delighted to be backing such a fabulous and worthwhile fundraising campaign.”

The grand finale of Elmer’s Big Parade will be the auction at which the Elmer sculptures will be going, going, gone to raise funds for St Luke’s.

The official trail map is available to download via the App Store, Google Play or available in print at local tourist information and St Luke’s charity shops.

For more information about the Parade and how you can get involved, visit: or follow the trail on social media @ElmerPlymouth #ElmerPlymouth.

The much-loved St Luke’s at home nurses opened the hospice’s new look Launceston furniture store on Monday 1 July.

The former St Luke’s outlet in the centre of Launceston closed back in February and the hard-working local charity has been looking for new premises ever since. The new shop on Hurdon Road, opposite the busy retail park with M&S Food, Costa Coffee and B&M, offers easy access, parking and a great deal for your money.

This will be the only second-hand furniture shop of this size in Launceston, offering great quality furniture, sofas and refurbished white goods. Also on offer are brand new mattresses, donated clothes, toys, and bric-a-brac at very reasonable prices.

Cash raised from running the store will go towards the over £7 million St Luke’s needs to raise to provide free-or-charge end of life care to families across the area. Around 16% of St Luke’s care last year was delivered to patients in East Cornwall, many at home.

St Luke’s shop manager Karen Millan said, “When you shop with us, you really do make a difference to local people. We’re proud to be back in Launceston at this great location, alongside our other Cornish charity shops in Callington and Saltash.”

Karen explains, “After having my children, I worked for the NHS as a maternity healthcare assistant, then a shop manager, training manager and area manager in charity retail. I also spent much of the last decade as full-time carer for my parents. Sadly, they are no longer here, but after St Luke’s worked with my Mum in her last few weeks I know they would be so pleased to know I am working for such an amazing organisation. I feel privileged and excited to head the brilliant Launceston team.”

St Luke’s Head of Retail, Mike Picken said, “It’s great to be back in this corner of Cornwall and we’re looking forward to welcoming customers old and new with this move to a more accessible location. We can’t do this without the support of the community though. Please consider us when you have household goods to donate – we offer a free-of-charge collection service and we’ll stretch every penny we raise to offer brilliant care to people in our local communities.” St Luke’s has over 30 charity shops across Plymouth, South East Cornwall and West Devon. Last year donations to St Luke’s charity shops generated over £1million of the £10 million cash needed to provide support to families at home or in the St Luke’s unit at Turnchapel. Sale items and other donations can be taken at any of the St Luke’s stores, please call ahead on 01752 964455 to organise large drop-offs or collections.

When someone is perfectly suited to their job and loves what they do, it shines out of them when they’re speaking about their work.

Within a very short time of meeting Dr Sioned Evans, St Luke’s Consultant in Palliative Care in our Community team, it’s obvious just how passionate she is about her role and how dedicated she is to providing the very highest calibre of care for patients at such a vulnerable time, which also helps those around them.

While she is already a familiar face at St Luke’s, having worked within our team at Derriford Hospital since 2013, Sioned’s full-time role within the Community team is new, building on the work of Dr Doug Hooper who is now able to dedicate more time to end of life patients at the hospital, and Dr Jeff, who continues to cover community MDT in Cornwall. This development is a natural progression for our organisation as we adapt to the changing needs of those in our care, the majority of whom want to be looked after at home in familiar surroundings and close to loved ones.

Sioned initially trained as a GP before commencing her palliative care registrar training in Plymouth and in Exeter and Torquay. In 2017, she was appointed as a Consultant at St Luke’s.

She said: “I’m driven by a strong desire to make a difference to people who are nearing the end of life even when others might think there’s nothing more that can be done. While we cannot take away the inevitable, I believe there is always something we can do to ease things for them and make their journey as good as it
can be.

“It is hugely rewarding to be part of such a lovely and dedicated team. From our nurses to our occupational therapists and physio team, our social care team to our clinical admin staff, everyone is completely committed to doing their very best for our patients and their families, taking the time to understand their needs and tailoring our holistic care and support accordingly.”

With such invaluable specialist experience in caring for terminally ill people at end of life, Sioned’s presence and advice gives the team around her, which includes our Community Specialist Nurses and End of Life Urgent Care staff, the confidence to care for patients with the most complex needs. This is also very helpful to patients’ GPs and in turn aims to reduce unnecessary acute admissions to hospital or our specialist unit.

Sioned, who is married to Andy, Spiritual Care Specialist at Rowcroft Hospice in Torbay, and has two children, said: “For me, this is the perfect role as I can draw on my experience as a GP and a palliative care physician. And having had the privilege of working across all three of St Luke’s care teams means I have gained awareness and understanding of the particular nature and pressures of each.

“It’s been a real period of transition in the Community team with new staff and office changes, as well as new IT systems, but we know it’s all positive and will further enhance patient care.

“Already, our service is benefiting from having a single point of access and the multidisciplinary team meetings that are now daily, which means we can respond more quickly to the changing needs of our patients.
There are other exciting developments ahead, too, as we work towards digital consultations with other healthcare professionals and closer working with community hospitals, such as Tavistock.

“Joining the Community team has been a huge learning curve for me and I’ve been made so welcome. I’m so impressed with the professionalism of everyone and very excited that we are continuing to develop our service, keeping it patient focussed and making it the most safe and effective it
can be.”

A big-hearted powerhouse of a fundraiser, a selfless, long-serving volunteer and a woman who has helped countless families emotionally and practically during their toughest times are to be celebrated at next month’s Pride of Plymouth Awards – and St Luke’s is the link between them!

The recipients of the annual awards, which recognise the achievements of those who go above and beyond to help those in need across our city, have been announced and we couldn’t be more proud to see the names of Cuz Cusson, Jeannie Norris and Janet Hearl among them!

Next month will see them attend the glittering ceremony to receive public thanks for all they have done, year in, year out to make a difference.
Cuz, who lives in Mutley, will be presented with a Special Recognition award in honour of his tireless fundraising for our charity. He’s the founder of Rockfest, the popular annual live music extravaganza that is well established in Plymouth and has now raised an incredible £100,000-plus for us in memory of Cuz’s much-missed mum Dot, who received our care.

Jeannie, who is in her 80s, will be there to receive a Lifetime Achievement award celebrating her amazing volunteering history with St Luke’s. She has exceeded three decades of giving her time and skills unpaid to help our charity shops provide a welcoming and helpful service for bargain hunters. And she’s still going strong there, with the energy and enthusiasm

that comes from her passion for seeing our vital service continue.

Also receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award, recently retired Janet – who for more than ten years went above and beyond in her work as our Bereavement Support Worker – will be celebrated for the immeasurable difference she has made, coming alongside patients and their loved ones with understanding, empathy and solid practical advice at their times of greatest need.

Huge congratulations from us to all three – we couldn’t wish for better ambassadors and we hope you have a wonderful day!

St Luke’s is renowned for going the extra mile for our patients and their families, and we have long been respected for the way we innovate to meet their needs.

Now we are the first hospice in the UK to embrace the new ‘cuddle bed’ that is both helping patients safely receive the care they need and find comfort and solace in the arms of those they hold dear.

At the touch of a button, the special bed, which was installed earlier this month at our specialist unit at Turnchapel, expands from a space-saving single into a comfortable double so a patient can be close to their partner and not separated because of their condition. It also means the young families we support can snuggle up together and enjoy cuddles that are precious beyond words.

Nicola Pereira, Head of Inpatient Nursing Services at St Luke’s, said: “We have always tried to provide the best care we can and go that bit further for the patients we care for. I always imagine a couple who have shared a bed for their entire married life – once one becomes unwell and needs care they have to be nursed in a single bed. What a privilege to be able to offer that couple the opportunity to share a bed once more, and even more special at the end of life.”

This fantastic addition to our specialist unit has been made possible thanks to the kindness of those who keep our charity close to their hearts. We’ll share the inspirational story behind their fundraising later this year and, in the meantime, they’ll know that they’re bringing comfort to other families and helping them make every moment count when time is running short.

Here at St Luke’s, we don’t keep our expertise to ourselves. We share it with others so that more people benefit, and this includes welcoming placement students keen to gain experience to complement their theoretical knowledge. So, it’s a happy turn of events when a student shines during their time with us and then the right opportunity subsequently opens up for them to apply for a position as part of our paid staff.

Such was the case for St Luke’s Bereavement Support Worker, Sue Martin, who joined in April, following Janet Hearl’s retirement.

With more than 25 years’ valuable experience in the health and social care sector in roles ranging from care assistant to registered manager of a nursing home, it was following the death of her husband that Sue decided to follow a new path and study towards becoming a counsellor for her own personal development.

From supporting people with issues around drugs and alcohol to helping those with phobias, there are many different areas of counselling but Sue found herself leaning more towards a role where she could not only draw on her previous professional experience but her own personal experience of loss, too, to make a difference to others.

It was following conversations with Jutta Widlake, Head of Social Care at St Luke’s, that Sue then had the opportunity of a placement with Jutta’s team as part of her Level 4 Diploma in Counselling. Not only did Sue complete the 100 hours necessary to help her get her qualification, what she learned working alongside our Social Care Manager Helen Koffi-Young, Social Workers Carolyn and Danielle and Bereavement Support Worker Andy Searle also meant that when the opportunity arose to apply for a full-time post, she was keen to take it. Sue, who has a daughter and two grandchildren, and lives in Lipson with her cat Eric, said:

“Doing my placement gave me really helpful insight into the work of the team and the huge variety involved in their work across the community, from helping families who might be struggling to care for their loved one to giving bereavement support.

“With that experience under my belt, plus the knowledge and skills I gained from previous work as well as my studies, I felt I would be a good fit for the permanent post and was really delighted to get the job.”

“Things have dovetailed well and I’ve been warmly welcomed into the team. I love the variety involved and being out and about where I’m needed to provide support, whether it’s coming alongside the relative of a patient in their own home or being there for a patient at Turnchapel.

“Although it’s early days and I’m still learning about St Luke’s, shadowing our Community Nurse Specialists and Social Workers has only confirmed to me that I’m part of a really special organisation that means so much to so many people. I’m looking forward to what’s to come.”