On Friday 29 January, HRH The Duchess of Gloucester GCVO was in Watford to unveil a plaque marking the official opening of the new Central Office of The British Polio Fellowship, 77 years to the day since the national charity was founded in 1939.
The Royal Party met with Trustees, staff and members of the charity at Wilmington Close at 11.00am before the plaque was formally unveiled by the Duchess at 12 noon. Her Royal Highness saw for herself the custom built office, which has been designed in conjunction with workspace specialist Woodhouse to ensure the facilities would cater for and prioritise access for visitors with disabilities including Post Polio Syndrome.
“It was an honour to welcome Her Royal Highness to open our new Central Office in Watford,” said Bryan Rowley, Chairman of Trustees of The British Polio Fellowship. “With so many of our members now living with PPS and needing to visit us for advice, we needed a new home for the charity that would offer disability access and good transport links and Watford is perfect. Having The Duchess of Gloucester with us for such a special moment in our history and the icing of the cake and a wonderful start to 2016.”
Other distinguished guests on the day included The Chairman of Watford Borough Council, Councillor Kareen Hastrick and the Chairman of Hertfordshire County Council, Councillor Frances Button.
Whilst there haven’t been any new cases of Polio in the UK since 1993, 80% of those who have had Polio will develop PPS. It is estimated that 120,000 people live with this debilitating neurological condition, which despite affecting the same number of people as Parkinson’s disease, receives only a fraction of the attention of the public and the medical profession.
GB wide YouGov research conducted by The British Polio Fellowship in 2012 showed that 93% of people had not heard of PPS, whilst 79% were surprised about the number of people in the UK who live with PPS. The British Polio Fellowship aims to increase awareness and provide a reference point for those in the medical profession.
“The charity has twin aims of raising awareness of Polio and PPS on the one hand and supporting those living with PPS on a daily basis,” added Bryan. “Our new Central Office gives us the facilities we need to cater for the needs of our members face to face and a valuable space to give our members with PPS the best support possible. We are very grateful to Her Royal Highness for taking the time to open not just a new office but to witness a new chapter in the history of The British Polio Fellowship and our fight against PPS.”
Following a long-term residency in South Ruislip, and a temporary office in Watford, the new Central Office of The British Polio Fellowship is just a ten minute walk from the local train stations and the high level of accessibility was an important consideration when deciding on a new home for the charity’s headquarters.