A local charity occupying a special place in the heart of the community is marking a special milestone this year.

This week marks 40 years since St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth welcomed its first patients. St Luke’s heralded the arrival of a completely new concept for the city - specialist care for terminally ill people as in-patients in a home-from-home environment, rather than in hospital, to ensure their comfort and dignity at the end of their lives. From this, grew the St Luke’s of today, looking after the majority of its patients at home and at University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust, with only those with the most complex symptoms needing admission to Turnchapel.

What has not changed since its beginnings though, is the charity’s need to rely on support from individuals and businesses in the community to keep providing its specialist services at no cost to patients or their families. That’s why, as well as reflecting on four decades of compassionate care that has touched the lives of so many, St Luke’s is using its 40th anniversary to express heartfelt thanks to all its supporters for their ceaseless volunteering and fundraising, plus the legacies that play such an important part in helping the charity plan for its future.

From participating in its weekly lottery to donating to its charity shops and taking on sponsored challenges like Midnight Walk and Men’s Day Out, such commitment from the community has enabled St Luke’s to survive despite the ever-increasing costs of running its 24-hour service 365 days a year. In addition to expert, hands-on medical care, its teams provide not only practical advice to patients and their families but vital emotional support, too - warmth, sensitivity and kindness that make an important difference to them at the most difficult time of their lives.

Chief executive of St Luke’s, Steve Statham, pictured left, said: ‘What started in the early 1980s as the idea of a small group of parishioners led by the Rev John Watson of St Andrew’s Church in Plymouth grew to become what St Luke’s is today, the main provider of end of life care for the city and its surroundings areas, looking after around 300 patients on any one day.

‘Quite simply though, we would never have come into existence – let alone still be helping local families four decades on – without the unstinting support we receive from the community around us.

‘All who give to the hospice, whether as volunteers or through donations and fundraising, do so in the knowledge that they are supporting something of priceless value, the highly skilled, compassionate care people need at the end of their lives so that they can feel as at ease as possible and make precious memories with loved ones.

‘A huge thank-you to all our supporters. Please keep doing what you do because we are going to need you more than ever as we strive to meet the increasing demand on our services.’

Nationally it is predicted that the number of people requiring palliative care will increase by 42% by 2040. Locally there is an ageing population. The number of people aged over 85 years in Devon will increase by 29% by 2025.

In the last six years demand for St Luke’s care has increased by 37%. Over 50% of hospice care is delivered at home with the remaining in hospital. Only 5% of care is delivered in a traditional hospice building.

From its humble beginnings in a converted suburban house to the widely known and greatly respected service it provides today, it is hard to imagine our community without St Luke’s.