Our history

Since Douglas Macmillan founded our charity in 1911, we have grown to be the UK’s leading source of cancer support, helping more and more people living with cancer, all with your help.

In 1911, a young man named Douglas Macmillan watched his father die of cancer. His father's pain and suffering moved Douglas so much, he founded the Society for the Prevention and Relief of Cancer. 

Douglas wanted advice and information to be provided to all people with cancer, homes for patients at low or no cost, and voluntary nurses to attend to patients in their own homes.

Today much of Douglas's legacy lives on. We’ve continually adapted the support we offer to ensure it’s right for people today, and will be right in the future too. Our determination to continually improve the experience of cancer is something that will never waver.

Douglas Macmillan

Watch: Our heritage

Watch: Our heritage

Macmillan milestones 2010s

2017

  • The Horizon Centre opens in Brighton, our first totally Macmillan-owned information and support centre.

2016

2015

  • We influence Government to ensure the 2015-2020 cancer strategy for England puts significant emphasis on improving patient experience across the whole cancer patient pathway, and the long-term side effects of treatment.

2014

2013

  • Through our Putting the Fair into Welfare campaign, we make sure the needs of people living with cancer are recognised by the Government.

2012

  • The groundbreaking UCH Macmillan Cancer Centre opens.

2011

  • We publish research that shows the number of people living with and beyond cancer will double from 2 million in 2010 to 4 million in 2030.

2010

  • We help shape the development of the first Cancer Strategy for England.


2000s

2009

  • Macmillan Support Line opens, offering vital practical and emotional support to people by phone. Over 250,000 people call in the first three months.
  • We successfully campaign for free prescriptions for cancer patients.

2008

2006

  • We change our name to Macmillan Cancer Support to help people better understand what we do. The unique and iconic Macmillan font is created. 

2005

  • The first Macmillan-trained benefits adviser helps people with the cost of cancer.

2001


1990s

1999

  • Macmillan successfully lobbies The Oxford English Dictionary to change its inaccurate definition of cancer. 

1996

  • We change our name to Macmillan Cancer Relief.

1993

  • We open our first information and support centre – the Lynda Jackson Macmillan Centre at Mount Vernon Hospital, Middlesex.
1991
  • Backed by the Prince of Wales, the Macmillan Nurse Appeal raises £20 million.
  • The World’s Biggest Coffee Morning is born! 300,000 people take part, raising over £250,000.


1980s

1987

  • Fundraising hits £10 million for the first time. £7.7million is spent on services.

1986

  • We fund the first Macmillan doctor.


1970s

1977

  • Nurses funded by the Society are named ‘Macmillan nurses’ for the first time.
  • We develop our funding model with the NHS – this new approach means we can have a much wider impact.

1975

  • We build and equip the first Macmillan cancer care unit at Christchurch Hospital in Dorset.


1960s

1969

  • Douglas Macmillan dies of cancer.


1950s

1954

  • We continue to improve people’s experience of cancer by putting TVs in hospitals. They cost £90 each –  about £1,500 today.


1940s

1948

  • National Health Service founded.


1930s

1932

  • Two paid home visitors use a Society bicycle to visit people in their homes, supplying clothes, bedclothes and changing dressings.
1930
  • Reginald Gollop, the first paid member of staff, a fundraising officer, is appointed.


1920s

1925

  • We’re one of the first to recognise the financial cost of cancer, giving grants for medical fees, nursing care, clothing, artificial limbs and hot water bottles. 

1924

  • The name is changed to National Society for Cancer Relief, moving away from the focus on prevention that had been key in the early years.


1911

1911

  • Douglas Macmillan sets up the Society for the Prevention and Relief of Cancer, determined to improve the experience of cancer after watching his father die.
  • The new charity publishes ‘The Blue Book’; a groundbreaking study of cancer mortality in the UK.