HELEN House, one half of the world’s oldest children’s hospice, is to close for six months for a near £1.5m revamp.

But the home will still be an open sanctuary for its youngest patients.

It has helped thousands of children and their families over the last 31 years.

But now Helen House – the world’s first children’s hospice when it opened in 1982 – is to shut for the biggest refurbishment in its history after staff said it was not fit for purpose.

The charity – which already has a £436,000 grant from NHS England to start the work – needs to raise an extra £1m to complete its vision.

But Clare Edwards, director of clinical services at Helen and Douglas House, said she was confident the money would be raised.

The family accommodation at the neighbouring Douglas House, which caters for those aged 16 to 35, will be turned into bedrooms for the children aged up to 18 with serious health conditions during the work.

None of the children will lose their accommodation.

Ms Edwards said: “The biggest disruption is that we will be unable to accommodate as many parents as we can now. They will be able to sleep in the same room as their child if they want to stay.”

She added: “Helen House was fit for purpose 30 years ago but it no longer is.

“Everything has got bigger – children are bigger, the wheelchairs are getting bigger.

“We need a bigger open space for them to be in.”

Improvements include a more welcoming and spacious reception area for children and their families and equipment, a refurbishment of the kitchen and plumbed-in oxygen in all children’s rooms.

Kathy Patching, house manager, Helen House, said: “Young people living longer have increasingly complex conditions and needs and are physically bigger.

“They need larger specialist equipment and more of it.

“They need space and we need space to be able to offer them the best care possible.”

Helen House in Leopold Street, East Oxford, is currently supporting 125 children up to the age of 18.

The hospice offers 28 days of respite a year to the children and young people and it also provides end of life care.

Dr Jo Elverson, from Helen and Douglas House, said: “Space is so precious and it will be wonderful for the children to have a bedroom not dominated by equipment and for staff and doctors to do their specialist work without being constrained by the space.

“We will also have plumbed in oxygen. To have that on hand when children need it and at the point they need it will make a big difference.”

Charitable trusts have previously contributed £30,000 for planned updates to the kitchen and dining facilities.

Organisers say they will be able to finish the work, but will need more money on an ongoing basis to keep the charity running.

Donations to the appeal can by made by visiting helenanddouglas.org.uk or by call the fundraising team on 01865 799 150.

Supporters giving a gift of £250 or more will be invited to a special reception at the refurbished Helen House.


  • It costs over £5 million to run the two hospices every year.
  • Of that, it has to raise around 85 per cent through voluntary donations.
  • It has helped thousands of children and families since 1982.
  • It currently cares for around 360 families each year, and supports around 60 bereaved families each year.
  • There are normally eight bedrooms in Helen House and seven in Douglas House and this will remain the same when the refurbishment is complete.