St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth has long been renowned locally for the outstanding end of life care it provides across the city and surrounding areas and now the charity has received prestigious national recognition as Hospice Team of the Year.

Staff and volunteers received the accolade in this year’s Hospice UK Awards, which celebrate the innovative work and people in hospices and palliative care organisations across the UK.

St Luke’s entry for the award centred on its Patches pre-bereavement support for young families.

The service – which launched as a pilot in November 2017 – was developed in response to the changing hospice environment, with St Luke’s seeing an increase in the number of patients under 40 needing its specialist care at home, in hospital and at its specialist unit at Turnchapel.

With most of these patients having young children, they have the daunting task of preparing their young children for their death, which can add extra anxiety at an already challenging time. Meanwhile, the youngsters face the heartbreak of losing a parent and can experience feelings of confusion and fear.

With this in mind, and recognising the positive lasting impact of sensitive, age appropriate support for children in these circumstances, staff and volunteers from across the organisation rallied to develop and deliver a solution that provides bespoke support for each individual family as part as of the seamless package of compassionate care for which St Luke’s is known.

Adapting the existing national pre-bereavement support model, clinical and non-clinical teams came together as one, with doctors and nurses sharing ideas and skills with their social care colleagues, the communications and fundraising teams, maintenance and receptionists.

While St Luke’s has an outstanding Patches Family Support Worker in Lisa Carter, who is there for young families facing loss, her work is enabled and supported by a much wider team across St Luke’s.

Patches, the koi carp cartoon character, and the materials he features in to engage young children and help them make memories with their family, was created by talented in-house graphic designer, Jesse-James Cambridge and volunteer illustrator Marie Arroyo Lopez, while the maintenance team transformed the playroom and implemented the Patches trail around the specialist unit at Turnchapel. In addition, staff and volunteer receptionists ensure a warm welcome at the unit and give out direction for the trail.

Since its launch, the service has helped 134 families.

The outstanding teamwork involved stood out to the Hospice UK judging panel who said, “The project has made an impact to not only its service users but also to its own staff and will help promote the hospice to the local community too. The Patches project can be replicated in other hospices very easily.”

On her recent visit to St Luke’s Tracey Bleakley Chief Executive of Hospice UK said: “I am so impressed by the innovation at the hospice actually, and the fact it comes from all levels. It’s a really great culture of everyone listening, learning and innovating from each other. When ideas come from junior members of staff or people out there working with families like Patches, it’s so impressive how everyone supports that all the way through to the board. Money is found for the project, people work together and the outcome is fantastic and what that really means is that it’s a hospice that’s growing and developing with the community and will continue to do so”.

Steve Statham, Chief Executive of St Luke’s, said: “I’m delighted and proud that the passion, dedication and hard work of our staff and volunteers has been recognised nationally by Hospice UK.

“The hospice movement is renowned for being pioneering, willing to take on a challenge, respond and adapt. Our Patches pre-bereavement support is a shining example of hospice care at its most creative, and it is really heart-warming to see how many families have been helped and how many young lives have been made just that little bit easier.”

Patches is kindly supported by The Morrisons Foundation.

Learn more about Patches.

Watch the behind the scenes making of Patches