From the beginning...

February 2016 Message

The first patients were admitted on 12 April 1976. For those of us who were not there that day, it is difficult to imagine the feelings of Nursing Officer Vivien Pritchard, Sisters Alison Parry and Jane Harvey, and the other members of staff, as one of them stepped forward to say, ‘Welcome to Sobell House’. What led up to that historic moment has been described in A History of Sir Michael Sobell House: the early years.

I came to Sobell House in August 1976 as the first Medical Director and reading this the booklet brings back many poignant memories as a procession of people – many long since dead –  step out to greet me: Frank Ellis, George Wiernik, Alistair Laing (radiotherapists at the Churchill Hospital), Donald Richards, Michael Kenworthy-Browne, Patrick Lawrence (local GPs), Tom Drought (architect), and Major Henry Garnett (Chief Executive of the National Society for Cancer Relief, now Macmillan Cancer Support) to name but a few.

But now its 2016 and a lot has changed, and is still changing. Not only at Sobell House itself but across the whole of the Churchill Hospital site. Who now remembers the Nissen huts to the east of Sobell House, put up to accommodate casualties from the Normandy landings in 1944, and still standing until the mid-1980s? Indeed, who remembers the original Sobell House, mostly demolished in 2002?

Nissen Huts

General view of the installations of the 91st General Hospital (Churchill Hospital)

It is strange to recall that Sobell House was built with the expectation that the patients, mainly with terminal cancer, would never go home. That was the view of hospice when Sobell House was planned, only a few years after St Christopher’s Hospice – Britain’s first modern palliative care unit – opened in 1967.

Then, with rare exceptions, hospice care was perceived simply as inpatient care with death as the end-point. In fact, even by 1976 that view was outdated and, within a relatively short time, 50% of admissions ended with the patient returning home.

Of course, Sobell House can never be as it was in 1976 – a 12-bed inpatient hospice tucked away by a golf course at the far end of the hospital. Expansion in response to need has been the ongoing theme and challenge throughout its 40 years.

The Outpatient service began in 1977 and the first specialist Community Nurse was appointed; eight further beds were opened in 1978 together with a small Day Centre; and a specialist Lymphoedema (swollen limb) Clinic in 1979. A bigger purpose-built Day Centre opened in 1984; the Bereavement Support service in 1985; and the Sobell Study Centre in 1987.

Sobell House

And so on up to 2016: a much expanded medical and nursing team; Specialist Support Teams in all the University Hospitals and a much expanded team of Community Nurse Practitioners. Not to mention the more holistic dimensions exemplified by complementary music and art therapies, and chaplaincy. Each year, more than 3,000 patients with their families receive specialist help and support. Some never set foot in the House; for them care is all in the community.

Sobell Corridor Sobell Water Feature

But this is only part of the story. Education, training and research have been integral to the mission of Sobell House since the beginning. Post basic courses for nurses began within a few years, and Oxford was the first British Medical School to make palliative care a compulsory subject. As a result of involvement in the evolution of the Comprehensive Cancer Control Programme of the World Health Organization, Sobell House was designated the WHO Centre for Palliative Cancer Care in 1988.

1988 was also the year I moved sideways into a newly established university post, and Sobell House welcomed Michael Minton as its second Medical Director – and the work continued to expand, as it still does.

This is one reason I am delighted that the Sobell House Charity, in conjunction with the hospital authorities, is planning to build a facility for the care and support of patients with more complex progressive conditions such as dementia.

So much of this has been, and will be, possible only because of the ongoing support of the community focused through the Sobell House Charity, and the army of volunteers contributing in myriad practical ways week by week.

Robert Twycross
Emeritus Clinical Reader in Palliative Medicine, Oxford University.
Honorary Consulting Physician, Oxford University Hospitals.

Robert Twycross

February 2016 Message

An image from the early years of Sobell House.

Saturday 28th October 2017

Dolls and Miniatures fair

Little Priory Fairs

We're Off!

Work starts on the Sobell extension!

Beth's Bursary Fund

To help achieve the best possible consistency in the quality of care.

Saturday 7th October 2017
Thursday 14th September 2017

The Big Bake Off at Solid State Logic

Tasty Cakes and Money Raised for Sobell!

Thursday 14th September 2017

Oxford Gospel Choir and Sobell House

Oxford Gospel Choir choose Sobell House!

Thursday 14th September 2017

Charity of the Year

Chapman, Robinson & Moore choose Sobell House!

Monday 4th September 2017

Daniel Hunt - Cycling Odyssey

3 months of cycling across 20 European countries

Monday 4th September 2017

FootSally Raises £1,480!

Back for the third year running. It just gets bigger and better every year. Brilliant!

Sunday 20th Aug 2017

Thank You Strollers!!!

What a night!!!

Friday 18th August 2017

Headington Shop now closed Mondays

Now open 9.30am - 5pm, Tuesday - Saturday

Sunday 27th August 2017

Annual FootSally Tournament

Charity FOOTSALLY Tournament is back for the third year running

Monday 17th July 2017

10 Mile Thames Walk

Family of Julie Jones raise money for Sobell House

Friday 7th July 2017

Summer 2017 Newsletter

Now available to view online.

Wednesday 21st June 2017

Blenheim 7k Thank You!

Almost £4,000 raised!

Monday 19th June 2017
Thursday 15th June 2017

Generous Donation in Memory of Judy Phipps

£1,500 Donated to Sobell House

Thursday 15th June 2017

Witney Shop Closure

Friday 16th June

Wednesday 14th June 2017

Easy Ryder Cup

RAF Brize Norton raise £545 in memory of their colleague, Leigh

Friday 9th June 2017

SO Thame Now Open!

Looking great after the refit

Wednesday 24th May 2017

Oxfordshire Business Awards

Sobell House shortlisted as a finalist!

Monday 22nd May 2017

Waterstock Golf Club

An Amazing £1,000 Raised for Sobell House

Wednesday 17th May 2017

Boeing at Brize Norton Raise Money for Sobell

Almost $5,000 raised for Sobell House

Wednesday 17th May 2017

Figures for Women Third Birthday

£647.08 raised for Sobell House

Wednesday 17th May 2017

Irene Andrews - OVCA Awards Winner!

Winner of the Long Service Award

Tuesday 16th May 2017
Wednesday 3rd May 2017

Finders Keepers

Sobell House - Charity of the Year for 2017!

Sunday 23rd April 2017

London Marathon


Thursday 30th Mar 2017

On the Hoof Food

Supporting Sobell House!

Sobell House latest Warehouse venture in Bicester is now open

SO Bicester is now open!

Sobell House latest Warehouse venture in Bicester is now open

Wednesday 29th March 2017

Sobell House Film

A wonderful film made by the Abingdon School Film Unit all about Sobell & why we need your support

Monday 20th March 2017


Tea drinkers unite and raise money for Sobell!

Wednesday 15th Mar 2017

RAF Falcons

Supporting Sobell House!

Wednesday 15th March 2017

Making Sobell Bigger!

We are pleased to introduce designs for the Garden Annex & Sobell Clinic!

Friday 10th Mar 2017

Oxford Castaways Auction

Amazing artworks up for auction - proceeds to Sobell House!

Friday 3rd March 2017

Winter 2017 Newsletter

Now available to view online.

Thursday 2nd Mar 2017

New Van in Didcot!

Ready to collect your large donations and furniture

Wednesday 1st Mar 2017

Radio 4 Today: Report on End of Life Care

With Baroness Finlay & Lesley Goodburn

Tuesday 28th Feb 2017

Witney Warehouse Opening Hours Extended

Now open 9.30am - 4pm, Mon - Fri

Tuesday 21st Feb 2017

Hospice UK Appeal

BBC appeal presented by Gethin Jones

Thursday 16th Feb 2017

OX Marks the Spot!

Have an OX postcode? We can collect your donated items for free.

Wednesday 15th Feb 2017

Oxford Mail: Families 'give something back'

Fundraising in memory of Peter Blackmore

Wednesday 15th Feb 2017

Valentine Thanks

Jennings and Watermeadow raised an amazing £185 for Sobell!

Friday 3rd Feb 2017

Anja Seymour Haircut Challenge

Raises over £1,000 for charity!

Monday 30th Jan 2017

Oxford Mail: Swimmers raise £4,000

19,200 lengths to raise money for Sobell!

Friday 18th August 2017

Online sign up now closed

Online sign up for tomorrow's Moonlight Stroll is now closed

Caring today, tomorrow... and in the future

Sobell House Hospice Charity Ltd, Churchill Hospital, Headington, Oxford OX3 7LJ
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