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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.

With an increasing ageing population, hospices like ours can’t reach everyone who needs our care and, for the majority of people it will be their GP, and their teams, that look after them at home at end of life.

When this care is high quality, planned and consistent, patients and their carers benefit, and – thanks to the Daffodil Standards, a free resource introduced earlier this year by the Royal College of General Practitioners and Marie Curie – there’s clear guidance with simple steps that are helping hardworking GPs and their practice teams of nurses, receptionists, healthcare assistants and pharmacists work more closely together and make simple yet effective changes that benefit people whose time is running short.

Experienced GPs and healthcare professionals helped to develop the standards, making sure they fit into the work these teams are already doing, rather than adding to their workload.

Quite simply, the Daffodil Standards help the whole practice team to spot areas for improvement and build on the good care they already provide.

It’s not about ticking boxes, but building the confidence of staff and a compassionate culture, recognising when someone needs support earlier, and sensitively involving patients and their families in their care.

Life is precious, and better support in this area for patients means they can focus on enjoying the time they have left rather than worrying about how to get the care and support they need.

Read more at the standards here.

First impressions matter and at our specialist unit at Turnchapel, there’s a team member who not only makes sure everyone who walks through our door receives a friendly welcome when they visit a loved one in the evening, or stay overnight, but can empathise with our hardworking clinical team, too.

When Andy Campbell first joined St Luke’s 32 years ago it was as a Healthcare Assistant, a role he later combined with his job as Support Officer with our charity until two years ago when he decided to focus on the latter, securing the building after the ‘day’ staff have gone home and doing much more besides.

Not only does Andy cover reception duties at Turnchapel during his regular 6.30 – 10.30pm shift, taking calls and greeting visitors, he ensures that both individuals and entire families spending time with their loved ones are comfortable, recognising that it’s often the ‘small’ things that can make a big difference to them at such a sad time.

Andy said: “I know our patients are looked after impeccably, so I see my role as keeping an eye out for those visiting them, who are often struggling even if they seem pretty calm on the surface.

“Whether they’re at Turnchapel for an hour or staying consecutive nights, there’s always something we can do to make them feel as relaxed as possible. Sometimes, just a friendly chat and a bit of banter is all it takes to show them they matter, while at others it’s about being practical and ordering their favourite takeaway so they can eat what they like while they’re here.”

So, from laying the tables ready for a family to enjoy a meal together to making up z-beds so they can stay close to their loved one through the night, Andy’s shifts revolve around the needs of our visitors so that they leave feeling better than when they arrived. Of all the families he has met in his many years with St Luke’s, it’s a particular mother and daughter who stand out in his memory.

Andy explains: “When a young woman who’d been receiving care was approaching the end of her life, she kept saying how much she desperately wanted to get a particular tattoo. Despite lots of phone calls, no local tattooists came forward to help so I contacted a friend of mine who’s properly qualified. He responded quickly and expertly created the exact tattoo she wanted, waiving his usual fee.

“Seeing how much it meant to this lady, who passed away just three days later, is something I’ve never forgotten. I know getting her wish helped her pass away peacefully and it gave her mum a lot of comfort, too.

“Being thoughtful and kind doesn’t cost us anything, but it can be priceless to the families we help. That’s why I always want to work for St Luke’s.”

When most people hear the word ‘hospice’, they picture the doctors and nurses who look after people at end of life, and – while it’s right these experts are prized for all they do for those in their care – working behind the scenes is an army of other hardworking staff, plus dedicated volunteers and of course the generous supporters, equally essential to delivering such a vital service.

With this being annual Hospice Care Week (7 – 13 October)*, St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth, which provides specialist care for people with terminal illness, is getting behind this year’s campaign theme, This is what it Takes, which celebrates the work of 200 hospices across the country who support and care for over 200,000 patients, carers and families every year.

Nationally, it takes 40,000 staff and more than 125,000 volunteers to provide this service, which most of us are likely to need one day. Locally, at St Luke’s, there are 300 staff from HR and Finance to Maintenance and Kitchen, supported by 900 volunteers, each one of them passionate about making a difference to those in the charity’s care and with their own personal reasons for working for Plymouth’s Employer of the Year*.

Hospice care is important and demanding, and those who give their time and skills to help provide it to the high standard for which St Luke’s is renowned go above and beyond daily to give patients and their families the care they deserve and need.

Among them is Tracey Chick, Cook at St Luke’s. While she enjoys creating delicious meals for patients, it is the interaction she has with them on the wards at the specialist unit at Turnchapel that gives her extra fulfilment.

Tracey said: “I love meeting our patients. Chatting with them you appreciate them as people rather than just seeing their condition. I take the time to find out about any special dietary requirements they have, such as avoiding lactose, as well as asking them about any particular treats they enjoy. It means I’m learning from them and its knowledge our team can use to help other patients in the future.

“I’m always glad that I’ve been able to connect with a patient, and it’s extra special when I’ve been able to surprise them by making something that triggers a happy memory for them. One lady mentioned she loved cherry and almond scones, so I made a batch for her. A month later, she died and it meant a lot to me that I’d been able to make that little bit of difference.

“When you work at St Luke’s, it’s not just a job. Little random acts of kindness happen on a daily basis and make it really special.”

As a compassionate organisation, St Luke’s recognises it is not just its clinical staff interacting with patients at end of life and feeling the inevitable toll this can sometimes take. People from all backgrounds are drawn to work for the charity because of their desire to make a difference, so there’s support in place to help look after their emotional well-being.

For experienced carpenter Kenny McDonagh, Maintenance Assistant, St Luke’s is world away from the grit and girders of the construction sites he has managed over the years. In a very different environment, he and his colleagues maintain the high standard of all St Luke’s facilities, including its 30-plus charity shops from Plymouth to Launceston and Kingsbridge.

Kenny said: “Since joining four years ago, my eyes have been opened to the difference St Luke’s makes to so many people. The variety of skills I’ve brought with me are really valued here, and in our team of staff and volunteers we can turn our hand to everything, from decorating and shop fit-outs to clearing blocked drains.

“The patients always come first so we are here to help things run smoothly every day, including over Christmas and New Year. While fixing a patient’s television might seem like a small thing, it’s rewarding to know we’ve played a part in helping them relax as much as possible while they’re receiving care. When a dear colleague was himself looked after by St Luke’s recently, it was comforting for me to know he was in the best of hands.”

This sentiment is echoed by Domestic Assistant Chris Smith, who’s been a familiar face at St Luke’s specialist unit at Turnchapel for nearly 20 years.

Chris said: “Working here so long, I’ve seen how St Luke’s has always moved with the times to ensure its facilities are keeping up with what patients need, and I’m proud to have a role in making sure everything is cleaned to the highest standards for them and everyone who works here or visits.

“When I’m cleaning the wards or gathering laundry, I’m more than happy to chat if a patient wants to – it doesn’t only brighten their day, but mine too. It’s lovely getting to know them and hard when they’ve gone, especially when it comes to clearing their room, but the lifelong friendships I’ve made with colleagues here mean there’s always someone to talk to. It’s  such a special place and there’s nowhere I would rather work.”

While hospice care is free for patients, it is not cheap, and in addition to the huge team effort of staff and volunteers, hospices in the UK rely on the public for two-thirds of the £1.4billion a year it costs to provide bespoke end of life care nationally.

For St Luke’s, last year £7.8million was raised by the caring community through donations and legacies, plus its retail outlets, lottery and events such as Tour de Moor and Men’s Day Out. It is only through the ongoing support of the community that the charity is able to continue giving its compassionate care to patients at home, in hospital and at its specialist unit.

Steve Statham, Chief Executive of St Luke’s, said: “We’re proud to support Hospice Care Week because it’s shining a light on just what it takes for hospices like St Luke’s to look after so many people who need us, and to such a high standard.

“Our charity would not be able to help as many people as we do, or as well as we do, without the many unsung staff and volunteers who work so tirelessly to help the families we come alongside. They do it because they’re passionate about making a difference, but we recognise they need support, too. It can be hard working in an environment where people are dying and that’s why we are committed to enhancing the well-being of all our workforce, which helps maintain resilience.

“We also know that without the ongoing support of our big-hearted community, our service simply could not continue. Their generosity is something we never take for granted and I want to say a huge thank you to them, too.”

Learn more about the varied roles at St Luke’s, www.stlukes-hospice.org.uk/jobs

*Hospice Care week is the annual awareness-raising campaign run by national charity Hospice UK

**Plymouth Business Awards 2019

“Look what they’re doing for me – this is five-star treatment.”

These aren’t the words of someone being pampered in the surroundings of a luxury spa, but a special lady in the care of St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth, whose service is holistic, helping their terminally ill patients create special memories with loved ones and focussing on what matters to them rather than just what’s the matter with them.

For Tracey Dunne from Dartmoor, who is in her 50s and receiving the charity’s care at its specialist unit at Turnchapel, this has included ensuring her husband Tim can spend as much time as possible at her side and even going the extra mile to reunite her with Malone, her beloved 17-year-old horse.

Recognising both the comfort animals can bring and the importance of making memories when time is running short, St Luke’s worked with the big-hearted stables at Buckland Monochorum to enable Tracey, who has cancer, to spend precious time with her loyal steed in the grounds of the unit.

Out in the sunshine, Tracey found solace as Malone nuzzled her hand, providing comfort as only an old, trusted friend can. But that’s not all because back inside Tracey’s room Betty the Budgie, Tracey and Tim’s much-loved pet, was waiting. Their feathered friend has been made welcome by St Luke’s as part of creating a comfortable home from home for the couple at such a challenging time.

Married for almost 30 years, Tracey and Tim met in the 1980s when Tracey spent a year at Tim’s employer, Taylor, Lane and Creber, as part of her degree in building surveying. Tracey went on to become a well-respected buildings conservation consultant whose work, including for the MoD, has taken her far and wide. Away from work, she has always loved being outside, especially on Dartmoor, enjoying nature and getting muddy. She is a gifted artist, too, often drawing from photographs taken by Tim.

Tim said: “Tracey is so talented, kind and always thinking of others – one of the many memories I treasure is of her in pink pyjamas, doing a charity abseil down the Civic Centre.

“While we’ve played the St Luke’s lottery for years because we’re aware of the outstanding work of the charity – and have often joked that the guy who collects our subs has a knack for calling when I’m down to the last fiver in my pocket – we never guessed it would be us needing the service they provide.”

With Tracey having been looked after by St Luke’s at Derriford Hospital, at home and at the specialist unit, Tim has witnessed the charity’s compassionate care in action with staff taking the time to get to know the couple, sensitively explain treatment and make Tracey as comfortable as possible, paying close attention to what matters to her.

He said: “When you hear the term ‘hospice care’ it is frightening and, while the fear doesn’t go away completely, I’m in awe of the way St Luke’s has been alongside us throughout – it’s given us both such an overriding sense of peace.

“When Tracey needed care at home, nurse Derek came to visit. It wasn’t just his specialist knowledge that helped but his empathy, too. He had a really good rapport with Tracey and knew just how to encourage her to describe her pain and other symptoms so that he could expertly manage them.

“Then, when Tracey needed to be in hospital, the St Luke’s team on Brent Ward always treated us with the utmost respect and went out of their way, despite many other demands on their time.

“Even with such reassuring experience of St Luke’s, the realisation that Tracey needed to be admitted to the hospice building felt daunting. It’s not what you’d expect at all though. In a sense there are many parallels with our home because it’s bright, airy and enjoys stunning views. It’s been comforting for both of us that I’ve been able to stay by Tracey’s side, and from the nurses to the cleaning staff and receptionists, kindness is everywhere.

“Tracey and I always speak openly with each other and with her receiving such expert care, we’ve had the space to have difficult but necessary conversations. As she wanted, we have even been able to discuss her wishes for her funeral.

“From the beautiful gardens to the wonderful way they’ve enabled Betty to be with us and helped reunite Tracey with Malone, I will always be so grateful to St Luke’s and remember the big smile they put on my beautiful wife’s face.”

The kitchen is often referred to as the heart of the home and at our specialist unit at Turnchapel, there’s no less thought and attention given to the nutritious meals and tasty snacks prepared for our patients nearing end of life. At breakfast and throughout the day, they enjoy everything from smoked salmon to freshly baked croissants.

The talent and tireless work of Catering Manager Lesley Henderson and her team – two cooks, six catering assistants, plus four ‘bank’ assistants and 30-plus big-hearted volunteers – is all part of our charity’s mission to help people live well to the end of their lives, focussing on what matters to them and making them as comfortable as possible.

But members of this busy team are not permanently confined to the kitchen in the basement – for some of them, their role includes seeing our patients on the ward on a daily basis. Every morning, they make their visit to chat to those in our care about that day’s menu, taking on board any special requests. And, if the food they really want that day is not on the menu, it’s not a problem. Lesley makes it a priority to ensure their wishes are met wherever possible, jumping in her car if necessary to visit the local supermarket.

Lesley first joined St Luke’s nearly 20 years ago as a catering assistant, having worked at the then Seaton Barracks military base in the city. She said: “From a full cooked breakfast to a three-course lunch, our patients enjoy our freshly prepared soups and meals every day.

“We put a lot of thought into our menus and we listen to their wishes – we will always try to give them whatever they want. We also work closely with our nurses so we’re up to speed on any allergies or intolerances patients might have, or whether their food needs to be liquidised to help them digest it. If it does, we still ensure it’s served up to look like a meal rather than one ‘drink’. Presentation matters.

“It’s crucial that we help make their last days comfortable as well as memorable for the right reasons. It’s also important for the families because naturally they want to see their loved ones eating well and enjoying their food.”

Lesley gets satisfaction knowing she and her colleagues have done all they can to enhance people’s experience at the unit.

She said: “What we do goes way beyond sourcing ingredients and preparing, cooking and serving food. We’ll help in any way we can and some of our most rewarding times have been decorating gazebos for weddings and baking cakes for special anniversaries.

“I’m proud to manage such a dedicated team that’s sometimes a bit of a ‘hidden army’ because they’re busily working away in the kitchen. They are a big-hearted bunch and often want to help even when they’re officially off duty, as they did at the recent barbecue we put on for the fireworks.

“We might not have as much face-to-face contact with patients as our nurses, but we know what we do makes a big contribution to the quality of St Luke’s service and it’s always appreciated when we hear how – by adding those thoughtful, special touches – we have brought a smile to a patient or their wife or grandson.

“It’s a difference we all feel privileged to make.”

Of course, the Catering Team are also the hardworking folk ensuring staff at the specialist unit are a well-fed workforce, who can enjoy delicious home-style meals to give them energy for a shift, or a tasty snack from the busy Driftwood Café, where the generously sized scones are now legendary! So famous, in fact, that members of the local ambulance crew are often seen popping in just to pick one up!

As well as thanking the Catering Team for all they do for St Luke’s we’ll close with a final word from Lesley. Any particularly memorable moments from the (almost) two decades she has given to St Luke’s?

She said: “The Tanner brothers once came here to cook for our patients as a special treat and wouldn’t leave without my recipes for vegetable cake and millionaire’s shortcake, so that was lovely!

“But what I treasure most is the laughter here – there’s sadness, of course, because it’s such a difficult time for families, but there are so many lighter moments, too, because St Luke’s is uplifting and we all support each other and enjoy what we do.”

If you want to get involved with this talented team, you can find out about volunteering opportunities here.