A LOCAL charity has been ­honoured with the highest award a voluntary group can receive in the UK.

Volunteers at St Luke's Hospice Plymouth have been recognised with the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service for 2015.

The end-of-life charity said its volunteers have been at the very heart of St Luke's since the ­hospice opened in Turnchapel, Plymstock, in 1982.

St Luke's currently has 1,194 volunteers assisting in a variety of roles, from helping to provide care for patients and their ­families, to generating the £4m that is required each year to keep the hospice operational.

A total of 997 volunteers work across the 35 charity shops in Devon and Cornwall alone.

Stuart Elford, chairman of St Luke's Hospice Plymouth, recently attended a garden party at Buckingham Palace hosted by the Queen,where he met other winners of this year's award.

'St Luke's would be unable to operate without the dedication and support of all its volunteers, who selflessly give their time in a number of roles across the organisation,' said Stuart. 'With more than 1,000 volunteers, it wouldn't be possible to recognise each and every one of them individually.

'However, being presented the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service is a huge honour that reflects the significant contribution made by them all that allows St

Luke's to deliver exceptional care to ­people suffering from life-­limiting illnesses and their ­families, wherever they may be.

'Accepting this prestigious award on behalf of each and every volunteer also serves as a thank you to the community, which holds St Luke's dear to its heart.'

St Luke's Hospice Plymouth is one of 187 charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups to receive the prestigious award this year.

The Queen's Award for Voluntary Service is the highest award given to local volunteer groups across the UK to ­recognise outstanding work in their communities.

The awards were created in 2002 to celebrate the Queen's Golden Jubilee and winners are announced each year on June 2, the anniversary of the Queen's coronation.

St Luke's chief executive Sally Taylor said: 'The St Luke's team is incredibly proud of its ­volunteers and is delighted that they have been honoured with this award.

'We were able to demonstrate a diverse range of contributions from our volunteers and some innovative programmes of recruitment, training and support.

'We're particularly proud of our "volunteering in partnership" project and the national toolkit we developed based on our learning.

'The project saw 120 volunteers, both young and old, supporting patients in a number of health and social care settings.

'The aim was to promote ­dignity in care and the volunteers are able to do the little things that make a difference for older people and those at the end of life.'

The award will be presented to St Luke's later in the summer by the Lord Lieutenant of Devon David Fursdon.

Chair of the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service Martyn Lewis CBE said: 'I warmly congratulate all of the inspirational voluntary groups who have been rewarded for their community work with a Queen's Award for Voluntary Service.

'Members of the judging panel for this year's awards were struck by the quality and breadth of all the successful groups.

'The thousands of volunteers who give up spare time to help others in their community and to help solve problems demonstrate the best of democracy in action.'