Neil Gadsby, the mastermind behind the creation of Katharine House, has been awarded an honorary doctorate for his commitment to palliative care services. 

Neil received the accolade in front of family and friends on Wednesday 6 September, almost 40 years since he first conceived of Katharine House.  

The doctorate 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’.

Neil was the driving force behind the creation of the hospice, following the tragic loss of his daughter, Katharine, which led him to address the lack of end-of-life care services in the area at that time.

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, Neil, 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 like-minded 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, Neil 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. He was awarded an MBE by the Queen for his work and contribution.

In his speech of acceptance, Neil said: “I am honoured to receive the award, but I want to share it with many, especially with the ten 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”.

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.”