WITH a ceremonial scoop of soil and celebratory slosh of wine, an Oxford hospice moved a step closer to its major expansion.

Sobell House Hospice hosted an official ground-breaking event on Thursday, as builders prepare to begin work on a new clinic and garden annex.

Staff were joined by special guests including Oxford City Council leader Bob Price and Lord Mayor of Oxford Jean Fooks, sporting neon jackets and hard hats to cement the milestone in style.

Diane Gardner, chief executive of Sobell charity, told crowds: “Two years ago we were setting our vision for the future of hospice care in Oxfordshire, to mark 40 years of delivering end of life care.

“This resulted in three pillars of care that the charity is working towards – the improvement of care for those dying in hospital, in the hospice and in the community.”

The new building will take up part of the Headington hospice’s current garden on the Churchill Hospital site. It has been mapped out with dementia in mind, to meet needs of an ageing population.

A curved design will allow patients to wander around more safely, and rooms will be painted in block colours to help people identify where they are.

The two-storey building will house six palliative care bedrooms, a lymphoedema clinic and offices.

Mrs Gardner added: “As with any building work there has been a huge amount of time and attention to detail in the planning.

“We are working closely with the contractors to ensure that patients and their families and staff are inconvenienced as little as possible as the work progresses.”

The Lord Mayor said she ‘hoped to see bricks rising quite soon’ and toasted to the hospice’s future.

Belinda Boulton, transformation lead at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, offered an ‘enormous thank you’ to Sobell for its fundraising efforts.

Georgia Burt, a director at Oxford-based Gray Baynes and Shew Architects, helped to build the existing Sobell building 15 years ago and has also drawn up plans for the new extension.

She said it was ‘wonderful’ to see the plan becoming reality, adding: “Every single person on the team is committed to the project, because we know it’s important to Oxford and the community.”

Ms Burt was among 17 people working on the expansion who ran for Sobell in the Oxford Half Marathon this month.

The team raised £11,500, contributing to a record-breaking total of £25,000 raised by Sobell’s 120 half marathon runners this year.

Builders hope to move in within the next couple of weeks, aiming to complete work within a year.