As the Branch looks back on its history, the charity as a whole is looking forward to the future of provision for those who will still be living with PPS in the years and decades ahead. The Leicester Branch is a microcosm of British social history in one of the most turbulent periods in national life. In 1953, the country was searching for a new role in the aftermath of war and searching for solutions to the major public health issues of the day, of which Polio was one of the most significant, having left the world literally, paralysed with fear.
“I would like to congratulate the Leicester Branch on its 65 years of service to the East Midlands,” said National Chairman of The British Polio Fellowship, David Mitchell. “The world was a very different place back in 1953 and it’s probably difficult for people to imagine; but without the Leicester Branch, many with Polio would have had a very different experience and the pressure on local health services would have been much greater.”
In 1953, the NHS was in its infancy and saw 5,205 new cases of Polio – while in Leicester itself, slum clearance began but the effects of the blitz were still in evidence. In the spring, a handful of people met at the home of Peggy Witherington to discuss forming a Leicester Branch of the Fellowship and the inaugural meeting at Hillcrest Hospital included the charity’s national founder, Frederick Morena. The development of a Polio vaccine the same year heralded the beginning of the end of the horrors of Polio in the UK. “It was inevitable that a decline in Polio would mirror a decline in members and this is something to celebrate as the problems we were established to fight become history,” added David. “Yet 120,000 people in the UK still live with PPS and remain in need of support and while there is one person left, we will be here to help.”
But what of the future? The charity marks 80 years in 2019 and is looking for sponsors who will help The British Polio Fellowship mark this amazing landmark and secure its financial future – to ensure the charity can complete its mission to offer support down to the last surviving person in Britain with PPS.
“The great British public has always backed us and collection by the Leicester Branch 1954 brought in £306 18s 6d, added David. “That might not sound much but £100 in 1954 would be equivalent to £2,575.35 in today’s money. We can already look back on a job well-done but our tasks are not yet complete. We have a responsibility to put the charity on a financial footing enabling us to guarantee the services we deliver in the twilight of our work and a last burst of support ahead of 2019 can deliver that. An aim worthy of the memory of Frederick, Peggy and our many other stalwarts down the years,” added David.
“Furthermore, we have witnessed an influx of Polio survivors from the sub-continent in recent years, so the face of Polio and PPS in Britain is changing, and our message is as relevant as ever to younger people who have contracted Polio in (for example) Pakistan or Afghanistan. This message is highly relevant in Leicester and we welcome all new members who have had Polio, from whatever background,” concluded David.
To find out more about The British Polio Fellowship and to learn about the late effects of Polio and Post Polio Syndrome visit www.britishpolio.org.uk