The driving force behind a beloved hospice has been awarded an honorary degree from Oxford Brookes University in recognition of his work and achievement.

Neil Gadsby, who founded Katharine House Hospice in Banbury after the tragic loss of his daughter, Katharine, received the accolade in front of family and friends on Wednesday, September 6, almost 40 years since he first conceived of Katharine House.

The degree was awarded to him for his ‘exemplary and inspiring achievement as a beacon of compassion, empathy and unwavering determination as a voice for palliative and end of life care over 30 years’.

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Mr Gadsby started the hospice to address his perceived lack of end-of-life care services in the area at the time.

In his speech of acceptance, Mr Gadsby said: “I am honoured to receive the award, but I want to share it with many.

“Especially with the 10 other people who were with me, the founding trustees, who had a vision and the skills, energy and goodwill to reach the desired end. “If you have a dream, pursue it. It will often seem impossible until you have achieved it”.

Twenty-year old Katharine was a talented violin and piano player studying social psychology at the University of Wales when she tragically died of cancer in 1984.

Her death set her father and friends on a six-year journey to raise enough funds to build a place that cares for people during their toughest times.

After giving up his career as a headmaster, and with the help of a number of likeminded people, he poured his relentless energy into raising awareness, as well as the funds necessary, to build the hospice and to project manage the setting up of its first services.

With the constant support and encouragement of his wife Heather, Mr Gadsby saw his vision of improved palliative care grow from the charity he created in 1985, to the opening of a fully purposed hospice building in 1991.

Neil was Chairman of the Board of Trustees and day-to-day manager for many years and continued to do so until his retirement, all on a voluntary basis.

He was also a very prominent figure in the hospice world and tirelessly campaigned to government on numerous occasions to raise awareness of the need for hospice care and government funding support, and was awarded an MBE by the Queen for his work and contribution.

Katharine House CEO, Emma Radley, said: “Knowing what a challenge it is day-to-day to secure enough funding for the running of Katharine House Hospice, we are in awe of Neil and Heather for fundraising for the build and for setting up the hospice.

“It is such an important aspect of the healthcare for the 275,000 residents of North Oxfordshire and South Northamptonshire and a wonderful legacy to their daughter, Katharine. We are all incredibly proud of all they have achieved.”


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This story was written by Matthew Norman, he joined the team in 2022 as a Facebook community reporter.

Matthew covers Bicester and focuses on finding stories from diverse communities.

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