Starting as just a single hospice building in Kent, our care has grown to span across Kent, South East London and East Sussex. It doesn’t stop there; our support also covers families in the community and local hospitals. Read more about the improvements Demelza has made to provide the highest quality care. 

Demelza was founded 25 years ago after our namesake Demelza Phillips, a children’s hospice worker, tragically died from a brain tumour and her parents chose to continue her legacy. Helen Rolls, Lead Nurse at Demelza Kent, reflects on her 18 years with Demelza and how we have developed our clinical expertise and support services to meet families’ changing needs. 


Complex clinical care 

“The complexity of children's medical needs has increased significantly in my time here. Due to advances in medical care, children with serious or life-limiting conditions are living longer, and care that used to be delivered only in hospitals can now be provided in the community and at our three core sites – for example, care for children with tracheostomies, ventilators or syringe drivers. 

That means our training has also changed; we have responded by creating a robust training schedule to make sure our nurses are ready to deliver the safest, highest-quality care. Our Practice Development Nurses and Clinical Governance team are integral to supporting our ability to be prepared and trained to respond to the needs of children with increasing medical complexity. 


Vast array of services 

“When I started, we only really offered respite stays and end of life care; they were important services, but limited and mostly clinical. 

Now, the number of services we have is so vast and impressive it can be a little mind-boggling! We’re well-equipped to provide care in the community now, for example, which was a direct result of family feedback. We also have the time at Demelza to provide this care in a much more personal way, caring for only one child at a time and really making a connection with them. 

We also have our family support services, which are comprehensive; we offer support for siblings, grandparents, parents and carers through regular online and in-person groups, residential trips, social events, and more. Our bereavement support is just as robust, and constantly developing.” 


No queues for the loos 

“18 years ago, we had a single bathroom in the care area at Demelza Kent – we had to queue the children up and take them through one by one. It took forever!  

Now, all our bedrooms have ensuite bathrooms with specialised baths, lowered sinks and wide doors for wheelchair access. This is only one example; our facilities have improved from top to bottom, from overhead hoists in every room to a fully equipped hydro pool and sensory room.” 


Looking to the future 

“I have a lot of hopes. It would be great to see a future in which families have more statutory support, and Demelza’s services can be in addition to that – making sure children and families get more of the care and support they so desperately need. Whatever happens, I know we’ll be here supporting families for another 25 years.” 

If you’re an experienced nurse and you would like to be a part of Demelza’s story going forward, you can visit our nursing careers page to find out more. 

Find out more about nursing careers at Demelza