New-look children’s hospice opens in Oxford

Actor Tom Hollander officially opens the newly refurbished Helen House Hospice with help from Ella Dicks and Sam Daly All People Photography

Actor Tom Hollander joined families to re-open the newly refurbished Helen House Hospice in Oxford recently.

Tom joined staff, children, families, volunteers and supporters to celebrate the momentous occasion, and two children, Ella Dicks, aged 5 from Corsham, Wiltshire and Sam Daly, aged 12 from Eton, near Windsor, cut the ribbon to officially re-open the hospice house.

Ella has a complex genetic medical condition and has been visiting Helen House for one year and Sam who has Duchenne Muscular dystrophy has been visiting for 18 months.

Helen & Douglas House Hospice received £436,000 from NHS England to carry out some of the work which was needed, but called on people in the community to help raise further funds to carry out vital work at the same time. The total refurbishment cost £1.5 million.

Although from the outside the house has changed very little, the inside is very different; modern, bright and very comfortable. A more welcoming and spacious reception area has been created and a huge play and holistic therapy area. Tables are height adjustable ensuring full access to the play tables and craft materials. The kitchen and family dining room has been re-located and refurbished. A blend of large dining tables to facilitate group dining, whilst smaller tables give privacy when needed, and a large skylight in the dining area floods the space with natural light, giving a bright and airy feel to the whole place. There are also vastly improved spaces and ‘flow’ areas between bedrooms, bathrooms and family areas, and plumbed in oxygen is now available in all of the children’s rooms.

The Neal family, from Winnersh, meet actor Tom Hollander

Picture: All People Photography

Tom Hollander said: “Helen & Douglas House is a cross between a high-end care home, state-of-the-art hospital and pleasure palace. The wonderful thing about the refurbishment is that they have bought it up-to-date and made improvements but retained its spirit. It continues to bring comfort, consolation, laughter and community.”

Lisa Neal lives in Winnersh with her husband Mark and daughters Hayley and Jasmine who have a rare condition called Leigh’s disease. The family visits Helen House for respite care. Lisa said at the re-opening event: “The new Helen House is so light, bright and colourful. I love the way they have opened up the area outside the bedrooms; it is so wonderful and spacious now with lots of space for Hayley’s wheelchair to move about. The new open plan art area is also lovely. Hayley really likes it too and said WOW when she saw it.”

Helen House was the world’s first children’s hospice, built in 1982. Douglas House opened in 2004 specifically for young adults aged 16 to 35. The charity has to raise over 80% of the £5 million needed each year to run the two hospice houses, via voluntary donations. This means the charity is almost entirely eliant on the goodwill of individuals, groups, schools, colleges and businesses within their catchment area. They care for over 300 young people from Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Gloucestershire, Hertfordshire, parts of London, Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire and Wiltshire. Helen & Douglas House Hospice are currently supporting over 60 bereaved families.

Helen & Douglas House Hospice have retail shops across the Xn region, giving the charity a presence in many town centres, raising vital funds. To find out more, visit their website at or find them on Facebook and Twitter.

Tom Hollander cuts the official cake, assisted Sam Bailey, 14, from Wantage

Picture: All People Photography