AN OXFORD hospice today unveiled £4m expansion plans to cater for the expected spike in elderly and frail pensioners over the next 15 years.

Sobell House Charity has announced it will invest the cash in building a new specialist facility at Headington’s Churchill Hospital specifically aimed at patients with more complex illnesses such as dementia.

The charity is also going to fund the expansion of the Oxford University Hospital Foundation Trust’s palliative care team.

The expansion plans come as Sobell House prepares to celebrate its 40th anniversary this May.

Chief executive Diane Gardner said the plans were intended to prepare the hospice to meet the needs of the growing ageing population.

The charity estimates that Oxfordshire’s population will grow from 636,000 in 2008 to more than 736,000 in 2030 – an increase of 16 per cent.

But Mrs Gardner said the hospice is expecting to be under even more pressure because the number of pensioners is predicted to rise by 68 per cent during the same period – from 115,000 to 193,000.

This is in line with the county council’s prediction that Oxfordshire’s population will soar past the million mark by 2037 and reach 1,150,000 by 2052.

Mrs Gardner added: “We know the need for palliative care will grow and we are starting now to future-proof for that. We want to build a facility that will react to what we are expecting we will see in terms of older, frailer patients who need more support – who can be nursed in a facility that suits people who maybe have dementia.”

Sobell House Charity is the charitable arm of the hospice, which is based at a purpose-built centre which opened at the Churchill Hospital, in Old Road, Headington, in 2000.

The NHS hospice, which is a partnership between the trust and charity, is currently caring for around 3,000 patients across the county, split between its 18-bed unit with day centre and clinical rooms, as well as people’s homes.

In the first phase of the new plans the charity will pay for the OUH to employ two new medical consultants to extend palliative and end-of-life care for complex patients.

The cash will also boost the team to include a specialist pharmacist to help with pain management, two occupational therapists and three new nurses to provide more weekend care.

It will build on the current team which includes a consultant working three days a week at the trust and will mean there will be specialist support available every day.

OUH palliative care clinical lead Dr Mary Miller said the additional staff mean more patients who could have an end-of-life care plan will be able to get one.

Currently around 1,200 of the 6,000 people a year who die in the county do so in hospital, but Dr Miller said this is expected to grow by 15 per cent to 6,900 by 2040.

Dr Miller said the new staff will mean more patients will be seen and get the end-of-life care they need – whether in hospital, at home or at Sobell House.

She added: “I hope there will be an improvement in patients’ symptoms and their understanding of what is happening with them and planning for where they might like to die if that is possible.

“We are hoping that wherever a patient plans to be, whether in hospital, Sobell House or at home, that their care from Sobell House goes to where they are rather than the immediate walls of the hospice building.”

The second stage of the expansion project will involve building a £5m extension to the current centre overlooking Southfield Golf Club.

Mrs Gardner said the aim is to have six or seven new beds for vulnerable patients with long-term conditions such as dementia.

While the charity has set aside £4m to begin the plans, it will still need to raise more cash to complete the project.

Mrs Gardner appealed for people to come forward and help, whether by running marathons, holding fundraising events, or businesses joining the The 40 Club.

Members of the networking club must pledge to raise £10,000 over the next four years for the charity as part of its bid to expand even further and meet the needs of the booming population.

To donate call 01865 857007, or send a cheque made payable to Sobell House Hospice Charity Ltd to Sobell House, Churchill Hospital, Old Road, Oxford, OX3 7LE or visit