Our story: 40 years of St John's

2024 marks a very special year for St John’s as we celebrate forty years since our hospice formally opened its doors to the community.

For those keen historians out there, our story actually began slightly before then, in 1977. At that time, the charitable St John and St Elizabeth Hospital and their founders the Sisters of Mercy, along with the Brampton Trust, began discussions of introducing beds at the Hospital specifically for the admission of patients with cancer.

In 1980 plans for the development of what was known as the Catherine McAuley Unit began to take shape and from 1981 to 1984, a five-bedded unit was situated at the front of the Hospital overlooking Grove End Road in St John’s Wood. The success of this unit led to the development of a ten-bedded purpose-built unit which would open under the new name of … St John’s Hospice!

From officially opening our doors as St John’s Hospice in May 1984 with these 10 inpatient beds to now supporting more than 4,000 people across North London each year. Join us as we look back over the last 40 years and celebrate the key moments that have shaped St John’s into the hospice it is today.

The late Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother visiting our hospice in June 1984.


On 29th May 1984, St John’s Hospice officially opened its doors. At that time, our hospice had 10 inpatient beds and was situated where our Wellbeing Centre now stands. A month after we had officially opened, the late Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother was invited for a tour.


In 1987, we extended our work with the addition of a Community Specialist Palliative Care team. This team work alongside our social workers, occupational therapists and physiotherapists to provide quality, holistic care to patients in their own homes. This includes providing pain and symptom management as well as practical and emotional support.

The late Diana, Princess of Wales visiting the Day Care Unit when it was opened in 1987.

In that same year, our Day Care Unit was opened, enabling us to launch a new programme of day services and increase the number of patients supported by St John’s. After its opening, the new unit was visited by the late Diana, Princess of Wales.

Over the years, patients have been able to access specialist nursing and medical care at the Day Care Unit, as well as benefit from treatments and therapies, meet with our social workers and take part in workshops and activities. Earlier this year, the unit was re-opened as the St John’s Wellbeing Centre following a £3 million refurbishment project made possible thanks to the generous support of our donors.


Our Hospice@Home services were launched in 1994, enabling patients to receive end-of-life care, on their terms, in their own homes. Today, we remain one of only two hospices in the country to provide one-to-one 24-hour care in the home through our team of specialist and dedicated professionals.

Our flagship charity shop on St John's Wood High Street in 1987.


Our flagship charity shop on St John’s Wood High Street first opened its doors in 1998, selling pre-loved and unwanted items to the local community. Our shop’s fascia may have changed many times over the years, but we’re still situated in the same spot! In 2022, we launched an online shop selling a range of products including charity gifts and cards with 100% of the proceeds helping to fund our work.


In 1999 our Inpatient Unit underwent a makeover. The new unit increased capacity from 10 to 19 beds, enabling us to support more patients and provide more services including carer respite, pain and symptom control management, rehabilitation as well as end-of-life care.

The new unit following its makeover in 1999.


In 2007, our Day Care Unit was refurbished, expanding both in size and the services offered. This included the addition of a clinical room, new therapy rooms for patients to receive complementary therapies, such as massage and reflexology, and a landscaped outdoor area providing patients and their loved ones, as well as our staff and volunteers a quiet outdoor space to relax in.


We launched our Lymphoedema service in 2011, providing specialist treatment to people living with lymphoedema within Brent, Camden, Harrow, Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea, and Westminster. This care is provided free of charge and is provided within St John and St Elizabeth Hospital under the hospice and at Charing Cross Hospital.


Our Palliative Care Ambulance service launched in October 2012. The service, which was first of its kind in London, enables us to safely transport our patients to and from our hospice as well as any of their external medical appointments.

Following our re-brand in 2020, which saw us move away from pink to the green and blue logo you would recognise today, the ambulances were given a makeover. You might have even spotted them out in the community!

Our Palliative Care Ambulance service when it launched in 2012. We're sure you'll recognise some of those smiling faces!


Building on the success of previous therapy animal initiatives, we started our partnership with The Mayhew and introduced some furry friends and their owners to our army of regular volunteers thanks to their TheraPaws programme.

Over the years, we have welcomed many TheraPaws dogs and their owners to our hospice and today, our therapy dogs, Hugo and Max, along with their owners Cara and Rachel, continue to spread joy with their weekly visits.

From little to large, short-haired to big bundles of fluff, we've welcomed many TheraPaws dogs over the years.


In 2016, award-winning horticulturalist Jekka McVicar transformed our hospice garden into an urban apothecary for the 2016 RHS Chelsea Flower Show. The garden received a Silver Gilt award from the RHS judges and was visited by Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Thanks to the generosity of our supporters it was meticulously re-planted on-site at our hospice. The garden, located just outside of our Inpatient Unit, has provided a tranquil space for our staff, patients, and their families ever since. This year, the garden is being revamped to improve accessibility so that everyone can enjoy the space.

Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II visiting our hospice garden at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2016.


Our bereavement services, as they are known today, were launched in 2018 to support the loved ones of our patients throughout their journey. We continue to be the only hospice in many of our boroughs that offers bereavement support for the whole family as our services are available to anyone with a link to our hospice aged 2 years and up. Our support begins from a patient’s initial referral and continues throughout their care – not only once a loss has been experienced.


In October 2020, our new Inpatient Unit was opened. The space created reflects the high levels of care we provide at St John’s and puts the needs of both our patients and staff first. Changes made included refurbished patient wards and private rooms, the addition of a brand-new staff hub and a Children’s Room.

The Children's Room added in 2020 provides a comforting environment for patients to spend time with their families throughout their journey with us.


In 2023, we saw our biggest-ever London Marathon team to date and launched a brand new abseil challenge, seeing brave individuals descend the Olympic Park’s ArcelorMittal Orbit in aid of St John’s!

Our biggest team to date was formed of employees from the charitable St John & St Elizabeth Hospital, Westminster City Council and friends and family running in memory of loved ones.

From jumping out of planes, abseiling from great heights, running marathons and taking on their own challenges, we’re truly so grateful to all of our supporters who go the extra mile to support our hospice each year.

In that same year, we held the St John’s Hospice Gala at the iconic Abbey Road Studios, raising over £200,000 to support the expansion of our community outreach services.

The iconic studios at Abbey Road were filled with our generous supporters in October of last year to raise vital funds towards our community services.

2024 and beyond

Today, we care for more than 4,000 patients with life-limiting illnesses and their families across North London each year. Our care is completely free of charge and is available to anyone aged 18 or over living life-limiting illness within our catchment area no matter their gender, ethnicity, sexuality or beliefs.

In January, our Day Care Unit reopened as the new St John’s Hospice Wellbeing Centre following a £3 million refurbishment project made possible thanks to the support of our generous donors. The new Wellbeing Centre can care for even more patients living across Brent, Camden and Westminster and cater for a broader range of conditions.

The all-new Wellbeing Centre which opened to patients living in Brent, Camden and Westminster earlier this year.

We recognise that none of this would have been possible without the generous support of our donors and the hard work of our staff and volunteers over the last forty years. Thank you to all those who have been part of our community and played a part in our story. We can’t wait to see what the next forty years brings!

If you would like to join us in celebrating our 40th birthday you can learn more about our upcoming garden party in June here.

You might also like to dedicate a St John’s Jasmine Flower to someone special or as a reminder of your ongoing support. The 400 jasmines will be on display at our garden party and will help us continue providing quality, holistic care when it is needed most. Learn more about the jasmines and how you can dedicate one here.

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