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Our history

Our history

Hospiscare has been supporting patients with a life-limiting illness and their families for 40 years. It all started with one man…

More than 400 people crowded into Exeter’s Guildhall on one cold January night in 1982. They were there to hear Dr John Searle talk about the urgent need for a local hospice care service. At the time, people with a life-limiting illness often had little or no support other than what their families could provide. 

Shocked by consultants sending end of life patients home with little more than a ‘bottle of whisky a day’, Dr Searle worked with a team of volunteers to fundraise for a community nurse service. Read more about the past 40 years of Hospiscare.

From two nurses to a dedicated hospice

The fundraising appeal was a success and Hospiscare began serving its first patients. To begin with, we had just two community nurses, who travelled across Exeter to see patients. By 1992, enough money had been raised to open Searle House – a hospice with wards for critically-ill patients to receive 24 hour care when they needed it most, along with treatment rooms for day services. 

Hospiscare has continued to grow. Today, we support more than 2,000 patients every year. Our outpatient care has been expanded to offer a greater range of services. And patients now have the added comfort of knowing their families are close by in our on-site visitor accommodation. 

Sharing skills across the medical community

From the beginning, we knew that the charity could not treat patients in isolation – it was critical that GPs, nurses, consultants and professionals working in other settings could

develop the skills and experience to offer quality palliative care. Our education suite opened in 2008 and we now train hundreds of healthcare professionals every year. 

Reaching more people

We’ve expanded our reach over the years. It can be a struggle for people with a life-limiting illness to travel to Searle House in Exeter, so we opened two new treatment centres – Tiverton’s Pine Lodge in 2011, and Honiton’s Kings House in 2015. 

With a little help from our friends…

Dr Searle and his wife, Elizabeth, have been instrumental in growing the charity. But none of this would have been possible without our amazing community of fundraisers, supporters, volunteers and team members. We need to raise more than £8 million every year, and would have to raise millions more if we didn’t have the support of our volunteers. 

So without you, we wouldn’t be here today. 

Thank you.

“I’m absolutely thrilled at the expansion of Hospiscare and could never have imagined it. Hospiscare has not only kept its ethos but has managed to grow and maintain its focus on the individual patient and those close to them. It has also adapted to the modern world without losing its fundamental vision. That’s been the brilliance of the people who have taken on the baton from us.”  Dr John Searle        

Hospiscare in numbers

  • 1100


    who generously support Hospiscare

  • 2000+


    people supported every year

  • £8 million

    Funding needed each year

    82% of which comes from our amazing local community