Frances Ritchie

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Frances Dominica Ritchie (born 21 December 1942[1]) OBE, DL, FRCN is a British nurse, specializing in palliative care. She founded two hospices ("respices") for seriously ill young people.

Early life[edit]

Born Frances Dorothy Lyon Ritchie in Inverness, Scotland, she was brought up in Edinburgh, where her grandfather was a Presbyterian elder. Later she relocated to Surrey with her parents.[2]

Her younger brother, David Ritchie, had been born with only one lung and she often visited him at Great Ormond Street. She attended the Cheltenham Ladies' College before returning to Great Ormond Street to train as a paediatric nurse. During her training she was seconded to the Middlesex Hospital to do her General Training. She joined the All Saints Sisters of the Poor, an Anglican order. She became novice mistress and later mother superior by the age of 35.

Helen House Hospice[edit]

Helen House hospice was founded in 1982, inspired by two-year-old Helen Worswick. Sister Frances met Helen after an operation to remove a brain tumour left Helen severely disabled. The friendship which Frances developed with Helen and her parents proved the inspiration for the UK's first children's hospice. More information on the work of Helen House today can be found at the Helen House website. A full account of the history of Helen House can be found in 'A House Called Helen', written by Helen's mother, Jacqueline Worswick.

Douglas House[edit]

Sister Frances went on to found Douglas House, a "respice" for people between 16 and 40 with life-shortening conditions, which was opened by HM The Queen in 2004 and which is built in the same grounds as Helen House. Both houses offer respite care, accompanied by members of the family if they so choose, end-of-life care, and family support from the time of referral for as many years after the death of the young person as the family may wish. Sister Frances is author of a book entitled Just My Reflection . . helping families to do things their way when their child dies first published in 1997.[3]


She was a guest on the BBC Radio 4 programme Desert Island Discs.[4]

She is Deputy Lieutenant of the County of Oxfordshire, and has received honorary degrees from three universities. She was appointed an OBE in 2006, received the Woman of the Year Award in 2007 and was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award in November 2012 by Help the Hospices and the National Garden Scheme.


  1. ^ "RITCHIE, Sister Frances Dorothy Lyon, (Sister Frances Dominica)". Who's Who 2014. A & C Black – via online edn, Oxford University Press, 2013. 
  2. ^ Foster, Patrick. "Interview: Margarette Driscoll meets Sister Frances Dominica". Sunday Times Review. London. Retrieved 2 July 2006. 
  3. ^ "Sister Frances Dominica Ritchie". RCN Fellows. Retrieved 2 July 2006. 
  4. ^ "Sister Frances Dominica Ritchie". BBC Desert Island Discs. Retrieved 2 July 2006. 

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