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 In fact, even by 1976 that view was outdated and, within a relatively short time, 50% of admissions ended with the patient returning home.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.

Fantastic Support from Bicester Village

Continuing our wonderful partnership

Magenta Storage Choose Sobell

Charity of the Year


Band 5 Nurses Required

Thank You Winter Walkers!

Over £4,000 raised!

Recruiting Now!

Sell lottery membership in aid of Sobell House

Botley Shop Closure

Our Botley shop closes as site redeveloped

Amazing OCDEM!

Raised a festive £500 for Sobell!

Monica, you are brilliant!!!

Monica had her head shaved and raised £1,200 for Sobell House

Marilyn Relf receives Lifetime Achievement Award

Hospice UK honours 35 year career

Oxford Gospel Choir

Raised £1,172 for Sobell!

G-SMATT Choose Sobell

Supporting us for 2018!

Brilliant Bethany brings Christmas Cheer

Thame shop supporter Bethany raises money and a smile with her Christmas jumper snaps!

Beth's Bursary Fund

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

Thursday 23rd November 2017

My Lovely Postcards

Thank you to the artists, bidders and all who supported the project!

Tuesday 21st November 2017

Thank You Firewalkers!

Scorching Support for Sobell

Tuesday 21st November 2017

Marriotts Choose Sobell House!

Charity of the Year

Friday 3rd November 2017

The Documentary: Before I Go

BBC World Service

Friday 7th July 2017

Autumn 2017 Newsletter

Now available to view online.

Thursday 19th October 2017

Thame Art Window

A Striking Display

Thursday 19th October 2017

Crendon Crafters Quilt Raffle

An Amazing £443 raised!

The Bell at Chearsley

Thank you to the Chearsley Challengers!

Fundrasing challenge, Aunt Sally & collections

Thursday 19th October 2017

£30k for Team Sobell at Ox ½ Marathon!

Thank you for the support!


We're Off!

Work starts on the Sobell extension!

Saturday 7th October 2017
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!!!

Monday 17th July 2017

10 Mile Thames Walk

Family of Julie Jones raise money for Sobell House

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

Wednesday 14th June 2017

Easy Ryder Cup

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

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!

Providing care for the people of Oxfordshire for over 40 years!

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