David and Jonathan Dimbleby urged doctors to remember to “listen to patients” as they appealed for funds to complete a £160 million cancer centre at Guy’s hospital.

The TV and radio broadcasters, who donated £2 million from their family charity, said it was vital to consider the wider hospital experience of patients rather than focusing solely on treating their condition.


They recalled how their father Richard, a legendary broadcaster who died in 1965 after fighting cancer for five years, was left to sit in a basement corridor at St Thomas’s hospital between appointments.

Richard Dimbleby was the first prominent figure to reveal he was dying from cancer. Public donations enabled his sons to establish Dimbleby Cancer Care in 1966 to offer patients complementary care, advice and psychological support.

There was an absolute obsession with trying to find treatments for cancer,” said David. “That medical obsession really took the place of caring for people in the hospital. Event though we have got as far as we have now, even though this wonderful building is going up, the need to go on listening, which is very difficult for experts in the field, [remains].

Jonathan Dimbleby said his father had longed for items as a simple as a “comfortable pillow” while undergoing treatment. This led to the creation of the “Dimbleby pillow”, which is given to cancer patients.


Holistic is now a word that we use,” said Jonathan. “It used to be a word that was laughed at. The need is enormous. It’s not going to go away, particularly because better treatments mean a lot of us are living longer when we have cancer, and a lot of us are coming through the cancer.

A minimum of £11 million is needed to complete the cancer centre, which will unify services from across Guy’s and St Thomas’s hospitals and provide a state-of-the-art centre for research. The building, designed by architects Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, is due to open in 2016.

Lord Rogers said: “I’m delighted to be working on this job. In this day and age, when I’m afraid most of us in our profession spend most of our time building luxury buildings and watching the erosion of many of the things I think we believe in, such as the National Health [Service], it’s great to be able to play a part.”