THURSDAY UPDATE - Should Government step in to save struggling hospice? 

DRASTIC steps to save a historic Oxford hospice will see it close of one of two core care hubs.

A radical shake-up at Helen & Douglas House has spelled the end of its adult services and a raft of 60 redundancies.

It will revert to its original children-only model, reducing its age range from 0-35 to 0-18, affecting more than a third of patients.

UPDATE: Hospice founder Sister Frances Dominica reacts to the closure 

Oxford Mail:

Her Majesty the Queen officially opened Douglas House in February 2004.

The much-loved charity has warned it will run out money in two years if major cutbacks are not made.

In a statement released exclusively to the Oxford Mail, the East Oxford hospice said: “These changes are necessary - we operate within a challenging and highly competitive fundraising environment and these pressures are felt by charities nationwide.

“[We are] not alone in needing to adapt and change in order to survive.”

The hospice provides specialist palliative and end-of-life care in two neighbouring buildings on the same site in Magdalen Road: Helen House for children, and Douglas House for young adults.

From August it will stop providing services for over-18s at Douglas House.

The building itself will stay in use for other purposes ‘for the time being’, and the charity will not change its name.

Oxford Mail:

Youngsters from Helen and Douglas House help the Duchess of Cornwall decorate the Christmas Tree at Clarence House last year.

Currently the hospice looks after 245 patients, with 90 (36 per cent) in Douglas House.

It has said it will try to help families transition to alternative care providers.

As well as reducing the age range, trustees also agreed to make ‘in the region of 60’ redundancies this year.

Helen & Douglas House currently employs 149 staff members, excluding in retail, and this will become 89.

Among areas affected are administration and support services, which are to be reduced by 40 per cent.

The charity’s chief executive Clare Periton will continue in post and lead the changes, cutting her executive team from six to three.

Retail operations will also be reviewed across the charity’s 40 shops.

Oxford Mail:

Helen and Douglas House CEO Claire Periton.


Late 1970s: Sister Frances Dominica befriends the family of a little girl called Helen Worswick, a terminally-ill toddler who is in hospital

1980: Sister Frances and Helen's mother Jacquie Worswick have meetings with medical professionals and architects, and share their vision for a hospice 

A fundraising campaign was publicised nationally

1982: Pioneering Helen House opened, named after Helen Worswick, and became the world's first hospice especially for children

1987: After going from strength to strength, the UK's second children's hospice opens with staff trained by Helen House. The movement went on to snowball across the country and globally

2003: Helen & Douglas House opened its first shop, in Oxford's Covered Market. Scores more followed in the coming years

2004: Douglas House opens, becoming the world's first hospice especially for young adults. It is opened by Queen Elizabeth II in February

The house was named after a young Helen House patient called Douglas, who stayed at the hospice more than 80 times between the ages of 15 and 24.

2007: The hospice appears on the BBC documentary The Children of Helen House

2013: Founder Sister Frances is investigated by police after allegations of historic sex abuse

2015: Despite police dropping the case, Helen & Douglas House ask Sister Frances to leave the charity

2016: The first set of accounts published since her departure show a large dip in donations

July 2017: Oxfordshire coroner concludes neglect at Douglas House was partly to blame for the death of Emily Bushaway, who died aged 21 when a nurse accidentally binned a vital part of her breathing tube

August 2017: The Oxford Mail reveals the charity is due to close three of its charity shops: one in Oxford's Covered Market, another in Chipping Norton High Street and one in Caversham, in Berkshire

It also makes 12 redundancies in the retail, finance, therapy and support service sectors

November 2017: The latest accounts for the charity reveal it has slashed its deficit, but states finances are an 'ongoing challenge'

December 2017: The charity is forced to call off its Santas on the Run event in Oxford - a key fundraiser in its calendar - due to heavy snow.

It describes the cancellation as a 'real blow'. 

January 2018: The hospice announces another 60 redundancies and the closure of its adult services.

Oxford Mail:

Oxford United superfan Steve Dyer and his wife Carol visiting Helen and Douglas House in 2016 and speaking to patient Sam Bailey.

Changes were agreed by trustees unanimously, except one who abstained, and should save the charity £2.3m.

Chair of trustees Elizabeth Drew said: “We have been working for some time to reduce our operating costs.

“Despite savings made last year, we reluctantly conclude that these were not sufficient to sustain the organisation long-term.

“We are adopting a prudent approach to reduce the service in line with what we can afford in order to keep the hospice open.”

Helen & Douglas House has been running on a significant deficit for five years, and has had to dip into fast-depleting reserve savings.

Last year it closed three charity shop branches, made a dozen staff redundant and sold flats in Leopold Street used to house families.

Oxford Mail:

David Cameron visiting the Helen and Douglas House charity shop in Carterton in 2015.

But subsequent savings were not enough, and the charity predicts it will have a deficit of £2.5m by the end of this financial year.

The charity’s total income in the past five years was £52.3m and its total expenditure during that period was £55.9m: a shortfall of £3.6m.

Though the latest series of cutbacks will go some way to help, it said it will still need to raise £2.9m to plug the gap.

Chair of trustees Ms Drew, who is soon to step down after seven years in post, said she was grateful for crucial donations and said the community’s support was needed ‘now more than ever’.

She added: “We are confident that this places the organisation on a firm foundation from where it can evolve to meet the emerging needs of our young patients.

“Changes we are about to make will ensure [we can] provide specialist palliative care to terminally ill children, young people and their families for decades to come.”

Oxford Mail:

One of Helen and Douglas House's biggest annual fundraisers, the Santa Run through central Oxford.

Staff were told about the changes during meetings on Monday, and families who use its services were sent letters yesterday morning.

The hospice costs £5.2m per year to run, but less than 12 per cent of this is funded by the NHS or local authorities.

It is hoped the measures will help it gain support from Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which does not commission services from the hospice despite CCGs in neighbouring counties doing so.

To donate to Helen & Douglas House, click here to go to their website donation page or here to visit the charity on Just Giving