IT is hard to imagine that before Helen House opened in 1982 there was no specialist respite and supportive care to help families with children suffering from life-shortening conditions.

Helen House, here in Oxford, was quite literally a world first.

In the past 31 years, thousands of families have come through the doors of Helen House and the charity, now known as Helen and Douglas House, is recognised nationally and internationally as the pioneer of the worldwide children’s hospice movement.

Some of you will know that Helen House is set in very tranquil and beautiful grounds, just off the busy Cowley Road in East Oxford.

It’s truly a home-from-home for families, where much loved children are given individual medical and nursing care and where hard-pressed mums and dads can take a rest from the demands of the relentless, 24/7, round of care.

The children and young people get a sense of independence: something that is very difficult to achieve when you have to rely on mum or dad to do everything for you.

When they stay with us they also have opportunities to experience things they don’t normally get the chance to.

At Helen House our aim is to help our children make the most of life: even when we, their parents, and sometimes they, know that it will not be a long life.

Our doctors and specialist nurses work both within the two hospice houses and in community settings, offering support and providing advice and expertise to other health professionals in Oxfordshire and surrounding counties.

As well as short allocated breaks, children and young people frequently come to Helen House from hospital to recuperate after an operation.

Children and young adults sadly also come to Helen House or Douglas House from home or hospital for end-of-life care, where emotional and practical support is also provided for the whole family.

Families and young adults from Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire and parts of London, often tell us that Helen and Douglas House is the only place they can find the level of specialist care and expert knowledge, along with social experiences and therapies, that they want and need.

The very special care provided by Helen House and Douglas House doesn’t come cheaply.

Building hospices is one thing, but maintaining them and meeting the running costs year after year is another.

Our charity only receives 15 per cent of annual running costs from the NHS and other statutory bodies.

The rest is raised through voluntary donations. Thank God for our fabulous supporters and volunteers, without whom Helen and Douglas House could not function.

With 31 years of constant wear and tear Helen House is looking very tired.

Over the years we have made repairs and minor improvements, but the time has come to make Helen House truly fit-for-purpose in the 21st century.

The children and young people deserve nothing less.

Earlier this year the charity received £436,000 from NHS England to enable us to carry out some of the most urgent improvements.

The potential impact and disruption to families led the trustees to consider a much bigger improvement scheme.

Taking account of the views of families, the trustees decided to temporarily close Helen House and move the children’s hospice service to the adapted first floor of Douglas House, so that all the necessary improvements could be made safely and at one time.

The total cost of the refurbishment project is now estimated at £1.5m.

I am appealing to you to help the charity raise £1m for this vital refurbishment of Helen House and to make sure that the flagship of the children’s hospice movement is here for families in the 22nd century.

Please play a part in the future of Helen House and make a real difference to the lives of hundreds of local families.

  • Visit our website helenanddouglas., email the fundraising team on or call 01865 799150 to see how you can help.