St Luke's looks to the future

St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth looks to the future

When St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth welcomed its first patients in 1982, it marked the start of a new era of more personalised and compassionate care, not only for local people living and dying with terminal illness but for countless others facing similar circumstances around the UK and overseas, thanks to the work done to share our expertise far and wide.

Teaching others what high-quality end of life care looks like remains integral to St Luke’s mission so that no-one with cancer, motor neurone disease or any other progressive, life-limiting condition needs to die alone, in pain or distress.

Steve Statham, Chief Executive of St Luke’s, said: With people living longer, and with more complex conditions, pressure on our charity is growing year on year. That’s why it’s so important that we continue to share our knowledge and skills with others – such as staff in care homes – so that more people with terminal illness are looked after in the way that’s right for them in their last months, weeks and days of life.”

This collaborative approach is one of our hallmarks. In 2005, the forward-thinking hospice broke new ground by being the first in the UK to establish an integrated care service, joining forces with the then-Derriford Hospital and community services to provide patients with properly joined-up, high-calibre care at home, on hospital wards and at Turnchapel.

Today, we continue to provide care for the community in partnership with University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust, Livewell South West and Marie Curie.

Steve Statham said: “At the end of people’s lives, it matters more than ever that they are looked after as seamlessly as possible, and that is always what we strive for to help make such a difficult time for them and their families that bit easier.”

“We welcome working with Plymouth’s Integrated Care Partnership, which was launched last year so that people across the city and its surrounding areas benefit from more joined-up health and social care, helping them live well, age well and die well.”

Even working collaboratively though, as a charity we still face huge challenges in making our limited resources stretch further so we can reach more families in desperate need of medical expertise, sensitivity and kindness.

Steve Statham said: “Though much has changed since St Luke’s got started in 1982, what has not is our need for our supporters to keep on fundraising, volunteering and donating to help us continue.

“They know about the crucial difference our charity makes to families, either because of their own personal experience or because they have heard of the wonderful care we give, and we are hugely grateful for their phenomenal support over the past four decades.

“What we’re saying is, please don’t stop. We’re only going to need you more to help us weather the next 40 years. From joining in with our popular events such as Midnight Walk and Men’s Day Out to sponsoring our nurses and donating to our charity shops, there are many ways to get behind us. Please help us ensure our city continues being a kind place for people at the end of their lives.”

Golf Day

Charity Golf Day

Combining a day of sporting fun with raising money to help support our care services within the local community is a win-win! Our recent Golf Day at Boringdon Park Golf Club raised a massive £9,403.11 with the help of our headline sponsors H M Williams Accountants and the wonderful hole sponsors.

The day included 18 holes of golf, a two-course meal and the chance to win £10,000 with a hole in one presented by professional golfer, Sammie!

Here’s a few kind words from the local businesses who made this event possible.

ADS Windows and Doors – Great charity to get involved with, an absolute pleasure to support St Luke’s and you never know when you, your family or friends may need their support.

Total Quality Recruitment – TQR are one of the region’s leading specialist Recruitment Businesses based in Plymouth (head office) and Exeter. TQR promote a partnership approach with their clients, offering an end-to-end, comprehensive service which includes temporary and permanent recruitment, careers advice, outplacement, market analysis and salary survey. TQR are multi-faceted, focusing on sourcing and placing entry to executive level candidates for varied industries. As a local business we like to support local charities. St Lukes have always been a charity of choice for TQR, simply because they’ve touched so many of our employees lives in so many ways.

Greenfield Kitchens – Green Field Kitchens are a local kitchen manufacturer and supplier of bespoke kitchens and bedroom furniture suplying to the trade and public across the Southwest, we are pleased to sponsor a local charity which in turn gives so much back to the local community and we are proud to be part of it.

Made with Maturity – “Typically when you hear of end of life care, you assume it is for the elderly, however this is not the case and we were shocked at the statistics of the younger age group who require end of life care. We wanted to support St Luke’s and the amazing work they undertake for those who require care and their families. What better way than to sponsor the golf day and enjoy the company of others who are there to support St Luke’s too.” Made with Maturity is a Devon based, award-winning Web and UX Design Agency who produce engaging websites for regional and national brands. We don’t just design beautiful, creative websites, we build digital projects that deliver long-lasting results based on solid a foundation of research, best practice and user testing. As a result, our websites are quicker, more efficient and customer focussed delivering maximum impact.

Plymouth Estates – We are so proud of the consistent high-quality lettings and property management and we remain passionate about serving our local community, with traditional values and customer care at the fore front of everything we do. When we first opened over 12 years ago, our aim was to provide an unbeatable customer experience with a clear and competitive No let No fee structure, we are just as enthusiastic to continue building on this success for many years to come. “We are very proud to support St Luke’s, a local charity that provides end of life care and support to those that need it most within the Plymouth community”.

Nash & Co Solicitors – “We took the decision a long time ago to get behind St Luke’s Hospice because end of life care is something that’s important to all of us. Most people in the firm know a family member or friend that has been treated at some time by St Luke’s and they’re just the most fantastic charity that we’re very proud to support. As headline sponsors of the Midnight Walk for the last four years, we are acutely aware of their need for fundraising to pay for the services they offer our local community, and we want to do our bit to support them.”  

A&M Security – A&M Security Ltd are happy to support the St Luke’s Golf Day.  Its 20 years since Elaine Laniewski one of A&M Security Ltd founding partners and Managing Directors Daniel Laniewski mum lost her battle to breast cancer and the St Luke’s staff were great to all the family and especially Elaine. This year, three of Elaine sons will be playing in the St Luke’s golf day and A&M Security Ltd will be sponsoring a hole in her memory. A&M Security Ltd are a family run security company installing and maintaining Intruder alarm, CCTV, Access Control and Fire Alarms throughout the southwest from our head office in Bell Close Plympton. A&M have grown over the years through high standard installation at affordable prices and have built up a large loyal client base throughout the last 35 years in business. If you have any security requirements, please visit our website or contact one of the admin team on 01752 337337

Care or not – We offer to advise people who are in need of care support and help them to identify what package of care best meets there needs to remain living in their home as independently as possible for as long as possible. We can also advise people and help them to identify an appropriate care home placement when they are no longer able to safely live alone in their own home. The care home will be one that meets the specific needs of the client. We offer specialist advice in legal areas of community care and NHS continuing Health care and Lasting Powers of Attorney. We can support and advise clients who need help with social service assessments and care plans, adaptations to the home, Direct payments for care services, residential care and funding of care. I have supported St Luke’s because of the tremendous work that they do. They enable people to die with dignity. They provide support when it is badly needed and in difficult circumstances. The amazing people at St Luke’s can also help you smile again.

Mortgages4Plymouth – In an ever-changing mortgage market, it’s important to receive up-to-date advice from a company you can trust. You can rely on Mortgages4Plymouth to give sound advice, personalised to you.

We offer an initial free no obligation appointment to see if we can help you achieve your goal. Whether that be buying your first home, re-financing your existing property, moving house, building a Buy-to-Let portfolio or ensuring that you have adequate protection for your mortgage, family and income.

We are proud to support this event for St Luke’s, a charity very close to our heart, who provide the most fantastic support for those who need it.

Base Concepts Base Concepts is a Plymouth based company who specialize in all forms of construction, refurbishment and maintenance works including extensions, bathroom, kitchen and whole house refurbishments. Our commercial services include shopfitting, drylining and on-call maintenance. We are proud to support St Luke’s as a local charity who provides such a caring and invaluable service to so many in their time of need.

Fairwinds Mortgages – I wanted to be part of something magical, making a difference to the care our community gets from this wonderful organisation. At Fair Winds Mortgages Ltd we offer a comprehensive range of mortgage and insurance advice.  As Professional Advisers we have access to a wide range of lenders and insurers.

Marslands Accountants – Marslands Accountants help landlords and small businesses meet their tax obligations. We specialise in rental property accounts and helping landlords with HMRC’s Let Property Campaign. Marslands are certified advisors for Xero and Quickbooks and can help you with the transition to cloud accounting in preparation for Making Tax Digital. We aim to give our clients a peace of mind service and save them more in tax than our fee! Contact Marslands on 01752 344582 or email

Nordic Installations – Nordic Installations Ltd are manufacturers and installers of aluminium fenestration products. As specialists in our field, the range of experience and ability to deal with challenges is a resource that architects can take full advantage of. The creation of practical but visually attractive solutions to design challenges is a resource for architects and project managers, looking beyond the drawings to practical applications and requirements.

From fittings to complete systems, understanding what is required from a window, door or curtain walling system will ensure problem free installation and future performance, saving on time and budget.

The experience within Nordic Installations Ltd is a key factor in resolving complex geometry and detailing ensuring there are no problems with any of the major features.

Understanding the needs and requirements of local authorities, health trusts, education authorities and similar agencies or organisations is key to achieving efficient, smooth running build programmes.

Nordic Installations Ltd has become a recognised supplier to a variety of public sector construction projects. All have benefited from the company’s in depth knowledge of product performance levels, appropriate applications and valuable input into design issues.

Benellie – Benellie premium accommodation is the premier Airbnb luxury short term accommodation specialists in the city catering for families and business alike.

ADS – Architectural Design Solutions are a leading window film installation company with 20 years’ experience in the trade. We offer a full range of window film products from tinted to security and provide the ideal solution for any environment. At home or at work, one thin layer of window film helps cut the cost of your energy bills, reduces excessive glare, blocks out heat, increases privacy and security.

Wright Clean Ltd – Wright Clean Ltd provide commercial cleaning services across the South West working with local people and businesses.

Travel Counsellors – As a Travel Counsellor with 30 years’ experience I am your go to person for all types of travel plans. Completely impartial and financially protected I am here to find the right solution for you so what are you waiting for? Specialising in once in a lifetime experiences why not trust a true award winning expert to elevate your travel plans to another level?  Get in touch today for a consultation and tailor made proposal.

Steve Hoskings Construction – ‘Steve Hoskin Construction Ltd Building and Civil Engineering Contractors deliver a wide range of services such as earthworks, excavation, civil engineering works & street works to its clients across the southwest. Established in 1995, we are proud of our Cornish heritage. With that pride comes the drive for continual improvement as well as long term planning and ongoing investment in plant, staff skills, training and safety.’

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When your vital work caring for terminally ill people already takes its toll on you emotionally, how do you cope when your job is made so much more challenging by the pandemic and its impact on not only the families St Luke’s serves, but the welfare of you and your own loved ones, too?

Selina Rogers and Becci Stafford are Healthcare Assistants (HCAs) with our End of Life Urgent Care Service, which runs from 8am to 10pm seven days a week. In partnership with Marie Curie, it provides co-ordinated, bespoke end of life care and support to patients who need this at home during a time of crisis or change in their condition. The team’s remit extends across Plymouth and out as far as Salcombe, Tavistock and the moors, too, meaning frequent travel to isolated areas where accessing all kinds of services can be more difficult.

As HCAs, Selina and Becci are central to the high-calibre care the team provides, ensuring our patients are as comfortable as possible – and their loved ones as at ease as possible – in the midst of very challenging circumstances. The ‘storm’ of the pandemic has meant that their sensitivity and compassion have been even more critical than ever, with the past few months seeing them pull out all the stops to remain the reassuring presence families desperately need, all while managing their own anxieties and concerns around COVID-19.

Selina said: “Helping to look after people who are dying is not an easy job, but we do it because we understand what a difference it makes to patients when their dignity is respected and they feel understood. We know how hard it is for their family members, too, who are often shouldering a lot of the caring responsibilities for the person who is terminally ill.

“That’s why we’ve been determined to maintain the outstanding service so many rely on, despite the many challenges of carrying out our work during the pandemic. As with NHS frontline staff, we’ve had to use all the necessary PPE to help keep our patients, colleagues and ourselves safe, and though we understand just how essential it is, it has been very tough knowing patients can’t see our smiles, or feel the warmth of our hugs or the reassurance of our hand on their shoulder.

“It goes against our natures not to be tactile, so we’ve adapted by telling them when we’re smiling, and even saying to them, “It’s right now that I’d have given you a hug”, just to make sure they know how much we care.”

Even more difficult has been the shock of seeing their patients die much more quickly than in pre-pandemic times. Whereas normally patients live for up to around 40 days from the team’s initial visit, giving time for a comforting familiarity to build between them, many have sadly passed away within just one or two days.

Becci said: “It has felt really hard comprehend at times, especially seeing them looking reasonably healthy one day and finding out that sadly, they have died the next.

“We understand the reasons for this – many people have been getting referred to us much later than they normally would because of the difficulties they’ve had accessing their GP during lockdown or deteriorating more rapidly due to the pandemic delaying their hospital treatment – but understanding it doesn’t take away the shock and sadness we feel.

“As a team we’ve all had to pull together more than ever to help each other through because every one of us has found it very hard-going.”

Of course, as well as their care and concern for their patients and the families around them, our clinical teams have also faced making tough personal sacrifices to reduce their own loved ones’ risk of contracting the virus.

Becci, who has young children, made the heart-wrenching decision to live separately from them for seven weeks, taking them to live with their father to help protect them while she cared for two patients diagnosed with COVID-19.

“I felt huge guilt in choosing to stay apart from my children, and although I knew it was the right thing to do, I struggled. It’s at times like that I appreciate the team around me even more. At various times, we’ve all been close to breaking point due to the fear of the virus, anxiety and fatigue, but we’ve got through by being there for one another, laughing and crying together. As a unit, we’re stronger than ever.”

Selina concurs: “It’s been an emotional rollercoaster, but we have so much empathy for each other and we’re like a family now. We’ve had superb leadership from Sharon Mayer throughout and all our nurses have been amazing, too. It gives you great faith in your team, knowing the resilience that’s been forged through what we’ve all been through.”

Listening to Becci and Selina, it’s clear from the emotion in their voices that they’ve been so tested in recent months yet remain completely dedicated to those in their care.

Becci said: “When a family thanks you for being alongside them from the very first visit to the last, saying how that continuity was made such a big difference to them, it’s incredibly fulfilling. It feels really special.”

On Wednesday, Becci and Selena – accompanied by Sharon and Claire – will be putting their best foot forward, walking from Brooklands to Turnchapel, via several St Luke’s charity shops, to raise money for our charity. They’re doing it as part of Make your own Midnight Walk, the fun, flexible ‘replacement’ for Midnight Walk, which has had to be cancelled this year due to COVID-19.

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In May, at the height of the pandemic, Dr Doug Hooper, Consultant in Palliative Medicine in the St Luke’s team at Derriford, shared how it felt to be ‘in the eye of the storm’ at the hospital, with this specialist team extending their work to support the hospital in caring for COVID-19 patients. Nearly two months on, with such admissions steadily decreasing, two of his colleagues – nurse Linzie Collins and Dr Roger Smith – explain how the experience has been for them, and how the team is adapting as it moves into this new phase.

Linzie, who joined the team in February 2019 after nursing patients at Turnchapel, said: “I think what’s been most remarkable is the way everyone – both in our team and across the wider hospital – has pulled together, supporting each other and quickly adapting to the huge amount of change that’s had to happen quickly due to the gravity of the pandemic.

“It’s been tough at times with new changes daily, sometimes even hourly, but what’s always been at the forefront of our minds is making sure we’ve all been as well equipped as possible to give our very best care to patients who are in their last weeks, days and hours of life.

“Not only did the hospital undergo a complete transformation, with many wards moved or designated as COVID-specific – and Oncology being temporarily relocated to the nearby Nuffield hospital to free up capacity – there was also the redeployment of many staff, including nurses from other specialities who were assigned to our team to help us cope with the anticipated surge in patients needing end of life care. Now that we’re seeing less people with the virus, they’ve been able to return to their usual roles.

“My work has included covering the COVID wards as well as looking after non-COVID patients, which has given me some low-level anxiety because I’m always aware of the risks involved, but it’s been so helpful that this responsibility is shared with my colleagues.

“What’s struck me is how positive and supportive everyone has been, despite the undeniable fatigue that set in coping with the crisis. We’ve all pulled together, and I especially want to thank St Luke’s Clinical Admin, who’ve continued to be a lifeline for us, handling calls and making sure things run smoothly, despite having to do all their work off-site at home.”

Linzie’s colleague Dr Roger Smith is working with St Luke’s as part of his training in palliative care.

He said: “Fortunately, Plymouth has not seen the very high number of COVID-19 cases some other cities have had, but we’ve seen a steady stream of people admitted to the hospital because of the virus, and this has been over a prolonged period. We’ve done really well as a team to manage it, thanks to excellent teamwork and the strong leadership we have, but I won’t deny it’s been challenging at times.

“Not only have we been working with the uncertainty the crisis has brought, it was difficult using the necessary PPE with FFP (filtering face-piece), which looks a bit like a gas mask and can feel hot and uncomfortable.

“Of course, there is the emotional side, too. We’ve been supporting relatives whose loved one is dying without them by their side. However, we’ve been grateful for technology such as phones and iPad screens that’s meant that at least some could maintain some sense of connection. Nonetheless, it’s been heart-breaking to see.

Looking ahead, Roger is uncertain as to what future weeks might bring, given the number of tourists and second-home owners expected in the region soon with lockdown restrictions easing.

He said: “While it is good to see a steady decline in cases, I think our popularity as a holiday destination could make us more vulnerable than some other areas, so we need to remain vigilant. We also need to be well prepared in case of a second wave of cases in the winter months, when traditionally NHS resources are already more stretched.”

Both Roger and Linzie are also concerned that currently at Nuffield they are already seeing an increased number of cancer patients who need palliative care.

Linzie said: “It seems some people are presenting later than they normally would, perhaps because they haven’t been able to access the treatment they need due to the pandemic or because of wanting to avoid what they regard as them placing ‘additional pressure’ on the NHS. We want to reiterate the NHS’s message that it’s vitally important you don’t put off seeking medical help if you’re concerned about your health, and that you don’t miss your appointments.

“The past few months have been emotionally and physically tough, but we will manage whatever lies ahead by making sure we look after ourselves and each other, including taking some much-needed annual leave to bolster our resilience.

“We’ll continue to be here for those who need us, and do whatever we can to make such a difficult time that little bit easier for them and their loved ones.”