The Michael Sobell Hospice charity (formerly the Friends of Michael Sobell House) is dedicated to supporting the work of Michael Sobell Day Hospice, providing specialised end of life care and support to local people, their families, friends and carers.
The Michael Sobell Day Hospice is run by East and North Hertfordshire NHS and entirely funded by the Michael Sobell Hospice Charity.
Read more about our history below
In 1972, a chance meeting between Dr Alistair Laing, Consultant Radiotherapist and Dr Eric Hughes of the National Society for Cancer Relief (NSCR, latterly Macmillan), resulted in a report confirming the need for specialist palliative care for people affected by terminal illness.
The President of the NSCR, Sir Michael Sobell, was impressed by the report and decided to personally gift £1 million to the National Society to support the building of four continuing care units (hospices) on Crown Land to improve care, pain control and support for patients with life - limiting illnesses. This gift was given on the understanding that the NHS would fund running costs supported by charitable donations from the local community. Such donations in the case of Michael Sobell House were channelled through the Charity which later became The Friends of Michael Sobell House.
Michael Sobell Hospice was built on the site of Mount Vernon Hospital here in Northwood. The first patients were admitted to the 16 bed In-Patient Unit on Valentine’s Day, 1977.
Since the opening of Michael Sobell Hospice, the range of patient care has developed further. On 23rd July 1982 a Day Hospice was opened by Dr Robert Runcie, the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Friends of Michael Sobell House wholly fund the running costs of the Day Hospice in accordance with the central aim of the Charity - to give the staff and volunteers at the hospice the money and resources they need to provide the best possible care.
We embrace a philosophy that is compatible with day hospice care and is supported by a multidisciplinary team of doctors, nurses, chaplains, social workers, counsellors, physiotherapists, occupational and complementary therapists, housekeepers and administration staff.
The Friends of Michael Sobell House now Michael Sobell Hospice Charity's primary purpose going forward is to provide care for patients from the local community who face life -limiting illnesses and to provide vital care and support for their families and carers.
Sir Michael Sobell
Michael Sobell, son of Lewis and Esther Sobell was born in Austria on 1st November 1892. The family migrated to England before the turn of the century and young Michael was educated at the Central London Foundation School. He started in business by trading in leather goods, but soon moved into the electrical business as a small importer of refrigerators and other (at the time) novel domestic appliances from the USA.
As demand for Sobell’s electrical equipment rose sharply during the 1930’s, he raised finance to start manufacturing of refrigerators, radios and radiograms at Stonebridge Park, North London. In the late 1930’s, due to extreme economic depression, many of Sobell’s employees originated from the Rhondda Valley in South Wales. During the Second World War, bombing prompted him to move production of electronic equipment for the armed forces to Amersham, Buckinghamshire. After the war, he opened a large factory in the Rhondda Valley manufacturing radios and televisions, employing up to 3,000 people. His company, Sobell Industries, was sold to EMI in 1954.
In 1961, Sobell’s company was bought by GEC through a reverse takeover, a tie-up which netted Sobell a substantial sum which would form the foundation of his charitable trusts. The Sobell Foundation was formed in 1962.
Sir Michael was President of the National Society for Cancer Relief and played an active personal role in the Sobell Foundation’s charitable work, dispensing millions of pounds to a range of causes such as cancer relief and research, Anglo- Jewish charities, Sobell sports centres in South Wales and Islington and the London Zoo’s pavilions for apes and monkeys, built in 1973. He also endowed the department of neurophysiology at the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases and the gastro- intestinal unit at Wexham Park Hospital in Slough. Funds from the Sobell Foundation enabled the opening of Michael Sobell Hospice in 1977.
Sir Michael was a great follower of the turf, and bought his first racehorse in 1957 in partnership with Arnold Weinstock. They were advised by the great jockey and trainer, Sir Gordon Richards, who later became their racing manager. They had a string of winners including the Derby winner Troy, whose earnings for 1979 were a record to that date for any horse trained in the UK.
Sir Michael was knighted for his charitable activities in the New Year’s Honours List of 1972. He was a man with many friends, a good employer with an impulsive generosity despite his unflagging drive and tough commercial attitudes. He was full of curiosity all his life, with a strong sense of public and religious duty. He was a freeman of the Carmen Company, a Livery Company of the City of London and was an honorary fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists.
Sir Michael's wife Anne died in 1988. Sir Michael died in 1993, aged 100. He was survived by his two daughters, Lady Weinstock and Mrs Hilda Rubin, who performed the opening ceremony at the opening of the Michael Sobell Centre on 21 September 2005.