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Our History

This year we are celebrating our 39th year anniversary as the world’s first children’s hospice.

Our History

This year we are celebrating our 39th year anniversary as the world’s first children’s hospice.

Helen & Douglas House is a home from home for terminally ill babies, children, and their families. It’s a comforting place where families can enjoy creating happy memories together in their child’s last days, weeks, months or years. We’re here to support the whole family at this unimaginably difficult time, providing practical and emotional support as families face the challenges of terminal illness.

A world first

Based in East Oxford, Helen & Douglas House started life in November 1982, when Helen House and the children’s hospice movement was founded by Sister Frances Dominica. As the world’s first children’s hospice, Helen House has gone on to inspire 49 others across the UK and around the world.

The inspiration for Helen House was a little girl called Helen who was left with severe and irreversible brain damage after an emergency operation to remove a brain tumour. Helen’s parents took her home from hospital to care for Helen in her family surroundings. A friendship developed between Sister Frances and Helen’s parents and on occasions Sister Frances looked after Helen for short periods to give her parents a break. From this friendship the idea of a small homely hospice for children sprung.

Douglas House opened its doors in 2004 and cared for terminally ill young adults aged 16 to 35. Officially opened by Her Majesty The Queen, it was the world’s first specialist hospice exclusively for young adults and bridged the gap between a children’s and adults’ hospice. It was named after a Helen House patient named Douglas. Sadly, Douglas died before he could see what the hospice was like, but his legacy lives on in our name.

Sadly Douglas House closed on 21 June 2018 due to a shortfall in funding but Helen House remains open to care for terminally ill babies, children and young people aged 0-18.

We value the memories and legacy of Douglas House. We’ve recently completed an outdoor ‘den’ for older children at Helen House; as with all teenagers it’s really important that they have their own separate space to call their own. ‘Douglas’s Den’ pays tribute to the original Douglas, with kind permission from his family.

Below is ‘The Story of Douglas House’ – through the words and pictures of those who worked there, we offer one version of what that special, unique place was all about.

Learn interesting facts about your local hospice

Help us help families facing the unthinkable

We’ve been helping local families for nearly four decades, supporting them as they face the daily challenges of terminal illness and the unthinkable prospect of losing a child. No parent should have to face their worst nightmare alone. But without your support, we wouldn’t be able to provide the care these families so desperately need.

As a charity, we rely on donations to keep our doors open. We have to raise £3.6m this year from the public, each donation we receive makes a big difference.

Donate today and help us bring comfort and support to families going through the unimaginable grief of losing a child.

We need to raise £3.6m this year to fund our work

We need to raise £3.6m this year to keep our hospice open. Almost all of this comes from people like you.