Compassionate St Luke’s gains Veteran Aware status

A PLYMOUTH hospice, which worked on developing an End of Life Military Compassion project, has become accredited as Veteran Aware.

St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth supports people with life-limiting progressive illnesses and their families, in the city and the surrounding areas of South and West Devon and East Cornwall.  The organisation has been awarded the accreditation by the Veterans Covenant Healthcare Alliance (VCHA), with VCHA National Chairman, Prof Tim Briggs CBE, describing the application as “Outstanding”.

An independent charity, St Luke’s delivers most of its specialist care in people’s own homes, as well as in its specialist inpatient unit at Turnchapel and at Derriford Hospital, part of University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust, which was awarded Veteran Aware status in 2019.

The Veterans Covenant Healthcare Alliance (VCHA) is a group of NHS healthcare providers committed to providing the best standards of care for the Armed Forces community in England based on the principles of the Armed Forces Covenant.

The Covenant is a guarantee by the nation that those who serve, or who have served, in the Armed Forces, and their families, are treated fairly. 

The VCHA’s aim is to develop, share and drive the implementation of best practice that will improve Armed Forces veterans’ care, while at the same time raising standards for everyone. The evidence suggested that members of the Armed Forces received variable levels of care across the country, once they and their families leave the Armed Forces.

The VCHA programme is also piloting the Veteran Aware accreditation of both the independent sector and hospices as part of a widening scope exercise.

The award for St Luke’s comes off the back of its End of Life Military Compassion project, which it ran between 2020 and 2022.   

The project evolved from its collaboration with Plymouth City Council and other local organisations establishing Plymouth as England’s first Compassionate City for people at end of life and those who care for them.

St Luke’s project, which was helped through grant funding from the Armed Forces Covenant, makes sure the community is a kinder place for both current military personnel and veterans whose time is running short, and for their families, too.

Part of the project included the recruitment of volunteers from military backgrounds and providing them with bespoke training so that they are equipped to give befriending support to terminally ill current and former servicemen and women and their families.

Frances Hannon, St Luke’s Associate Director of Quality and Patient Experience, said: “We are absolutely delighted with this award. Plymouth is an Armed Forces city and our care teams are involved with military families every day. We are proud to go above and beyond to make sure those patients and their loved ones get the very best support. As a consequence of the End of Life Military Compassion project, we are now able to also connect people with empathetic befrienders who have a special understanding of forces life, and that can make a real difference when it matters most.”

Tony Armstrong, the VCHA’s Widening Scope (Projects) Lead said: “St Luke’s provides fantastic support for the Veteran and Armed Forces community. Our Veteran Aware award consolidates and formalises all the good work the charity has been involved with over the years.

“It has been a pleasure to work with them all on the accreditation journey.

“We know that there are around 18,200 veterans, reserves and regulars, in Plymouth alone, which is about 8.4 per cent of the overall population in the borough so this shows that there is a strong connection to the Armed Forces in the area. This is hardly surprising given the number of bases in the area.”

Prof Briggs CBE said: “This was a truly outstanding application from a charity that clearly cares about those who’ve served and are at the end of their lives. It very clearly meets the ethos of the Armed Forces Covenant and our manifesto points and I’m delighted to have them on board. Well done!”

More updates