In 1981 St. Columbus Hospital finally shut its doors after operating for nearly 100 years as North London’s only long-stay hospital. Up until that point it had been the only place where sufferers of life-limiting illness could receive treatment in North London. Hospitals would usually discharge people back into the community with no after care whatsoever. Those who were unable to afford their own private help were effectively left to fend for themselves.
It was an intolerable situation for North London’s five million residents, and one that galvanised a local Highgate GP, Dr Chris Hindley, to take action. He formed a small working group to begin the long process of creating the North London Hospice, and was soon joined by Harriet Copperman OBE, who was to become the public face of the Hospice with her outreach team.
“Right from the start, I stipulated that the new place was to have a simple name – just North London Hospice,” says Dr Hindley, “with no specific religious connotation. I felt strongly that the two other London hospices were connected to the Catholic and Anglican faiths and that this Hospice should be for everyone.”
During this time the Jewish community also began planning the development of a hospice, and after some lengthy negotiations with Dr Hindley and the team it was decided that the Jewish Welfare Board (now Jewish Care) would formally join the North London Hospice Group.
This is how the UK’s very first multi-faith hospice was born. Now people of all faiths, as well as people with no formal faith, could receive care and support when it was needed most.
However, it certainly wasn’t all plain sailing. On numerous occasions the project nearly faltered, and it would be years before the North London Hospice finally became a reality. But with the tireless help and support of many groups and individuals along the way, such as the Peabody Trust, the Jewish Welfare Board, and Melvyn Carlowe OBE, Chris Hindley’s vision was finally realised.
The Hospice began operating a community service in 1984. In 1992 the current hospice building on Woodside Avenue was opened and the multi-professional service expanded to include inpatients and day services.
Over 30 years have gone by since Dr Hindley, Harriet Copperman OBE and Melvyn Carlowe OBE first developed the idea of a hospice for the people of North London. Thanks to them and everyone who has donated time, goods and money over the years, the Hospice now brings much-needed specialist care to those living locally with life limiting illness.
“We are now committed to 3 London boroughs, one of the few hospices where that is the case. But maybe the fact that the North London Hospice is so well established also works against it. People often think we are part of the health service but we are just 23% NHS funded and we have to fight for that!
“I do feel proud and very pleased that The North London Hospice is here and helping so many local people. In fact, I can’t believe how far we have come. It still gives me such pleasure to come to events here like the annual Light up a Life and mingle with local people and their families. The help and support of the local community is so important; we wouldn’t be here without it.
“It pleases me that I was able to set the ball rolling and give the Hospice the necessary push it needed – but this thing still needs steering. Now that I am semi-retired, I have time to think about where the Hospice is going and what the future holds and I can see that our work is far from over!”
Home care & social work services begin from Harriet Copperman's flat in Muswell Hill
Building appeal launched and first shop opens
Purpose built multi-faith hospice opens in North Finchley
Day Centre welcomes its first patients
Room of quiet, library, lecture room and extra offices added
First Enfield Palliative Care Team run by North London Hospice
Hospice at home established
Parts of original building refurbished and facilities updated
Building work starts on new Day Services centre in Enfield
New Hospice building opens and Day Services transferred to Enfield