An innovative healthcare service that helps make every day count for people nearing end of life has received national recognition today, Wednesday 20 November, at the Our Health Heroes Awards ceremony organised by Skills for Health, a not-for-profit organisation committed to the development of an improved and sustainable healthcare workforce across the UK.

Plymouth’s End of Life Urgent Care Service, provided by St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth and Marie Curie, beat stiff competition from 133 other healthcare providers to be named Integrated Team of the Year at the annual awards, which celebrate the thousands of people who work in healthcare across the country and are the backbone of the sector.

Since its launch a year ago, which followed a successful pilot, the Urgent Care Service has improved the experience of hundreds of terminally ill people being cared for at home by providing a reassuringly rapid response for those entering the last days or weeks of their life and a high-quality, seamlessly co-ordinated package of specialist care when they need it most, which also relieves pressure on the families around them at such a challenging time.

Whereas previously, a patient might have needed multiple referrals at different stages of their condition, now with just one call from a health professional to St Luke’s Plymouth-based offices, the team – which also includes staff transferred from social enterprise health and social provider Livewell Southwest –  is quickly dispatched to provide bespoke care to the patient at home, whether they live in Plymouth or in the surrounding areas of South West Devon and East Cornwall.

This new ‘one-stop-shop’ model of high-calibre, integrated urgent care for terminally ill people at end of life was developed by St Luke’s and Marie Curie to help meet the ambitions laid out in the national framework Ambitions for End of Life and Palliative Care, 2015-20, which sets the standard for improving end of life care through partnership and collaborative action between organisations at local level throughout England.

Thanks to the service, which harnesses the pooled skills of St Luke’s and Marie Curie – both well-respected charities – more patients are able to be cared for at home, where they want to be looked after, which not only benefits them and those around them but reduces pressure on the NHS by avoiding unnecessary admissions to hospitals, including University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust.

Steve Statham, Chief Executive of St Luke’s, said: “We are delighted to receive this national recognition, which demonstrates how charities are often stronger when they work together.

“St Luke’s primary focus is always our patients, and the End of Life Urgent Care Service is a shining example of how healthcare providers are innovating to respond to the challenge of developing a more co-ordinated and person-centred service in line with the government’s ambitions.

“We have seen a huge benefit to patients and referrers since launching this joint service. It not only eases some of the strain a family experiences when a loved one is terminally ill, but also ensures patients receive fantastic care that is right for them, at their right time. We look forward to continuing this vital work.”

Rachel Adey, Marie Curie Clinical Nurse Manager for Devon, said: “It’s an honour to receive this award, what an excellent example of the positive and immediate impacts when care providers and charities work collaboratively. The service could not have been the huge success that it is without the hard work and dedication of the Marie Curie and St Luke’s staff within the team.

“Marie Curie nurses have been providing expert care to terminally ill patients in their homes across Devon for many years. This service is a wonderful addition to other Marie Curie services we provide in the region such as our overnight and day community nursing service and our voluntary Helper service.”

John Rogers, Chief Executive at Skills for Health, said: “The Integrated Team of the Year Award was a popular category for nominations with 134 entries, which just goes to show that healthcare professionals like those who make up the team at St Luke’s and Marie Curie are regularly going the extra mile for their patients. Congratulations to the whole team on being named winners; this award is a testament to their hard work and commitment to their roles.”