So here we are, my last blog of 2020! As it finally draws to a close, I want to thank you for supporting us through one of the toughest times we’ve known.
I know many in our community have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic this year. I want to say to each and every one of you, we’re here for you. Making it through the year is an achievement to be proud of in itself.
We as a community have come together to achieve some amazing things despite the odds. These are just some of them.
Looking after each other
Our local groups have been working hard all year, providing friendship, support and information about MS online. From yoga sessions, to virtual chats, coffee mornings and even ballet, you’ve all done your best to keep being here for our community.
At the beginning of the pandemic, we quickly developed new services to support people affected by MS. Together the new services reached over 2,000 people through a combination of webinars, online chats and one to one keep in touch calls.
Providing clear information on MS and coronavirus
Since the first news story about coronavirus back in February we’ve worked with our medical advisers to give you the latest information on what the pandemic means for people with MS.
"I estimate your information has saved at least half of the calls that would have come through to us otherwise. I don't know what we would have done" - MS Nurse
From updates on DMTs and risks, to information on shopping and the latest on the vaccine, we’ve worked hard to give you the facts as fast as we can. Since March we've had more than 400,000 visits to our coronavirus pages to find out what the changing guidance means for our community.
Keeping MS research moving
Coronavirus has brought many challenges to MS researchers. At the start of the pandemic staff were redeployed to wards. Trial participants weren’t able to travel. Limited access to their labs meant our researchers had to find new ways to carry on. And they’ve risen to the challenge.
Lab researchers have adapted their work and analysed results from home. And clinical trials have couriered drugs to participants and introduced remote check ins. Together we’re keeping MS research moving.
Read our 2020 research round up
Our ambition has not changed - that by 2025 we’ll be in the final stages of testing a range of treatments for everyone with MS. And we’re doing everything in our power to make this happen.
Fundraising against the odds
This year saw many of our biggest fundraising events like the London Marathon postponed, taken online or cancelled altogether. These events are a big source of our income, as well as being great opportunities for our fundraisers to challenge themselves to stop MS.
And our Stop MS Appeal goes from strength to strength, raising funds to find ways to stop and slow MS progression. All year, I’ve been humbled and inspired by the dedication of our donors and fundraisers who have helped to make our work possible. This has been a year where every penny really has counted.
Standing up for our community
We’ve been working round the clock to get clarity from government on what coronavirus rules mean for people affected by MS. And pushing for the right protections and support for our community.
We spoke up together on disability benefits, demanding change to unfair PIP assessments and calling for an increase to benefits like Employment and Support Allowance. And we campaigned for improved access to rehabilitation services in our Too Much to Lose campaign.
There was also some positive news. Siponimod was approved on the NHS in England, Wales and Scotland. This is the first new treatment for active secondary progressive MS in over a decade.
This year it’s been more important than ever to make sure the voices of our community are heard, and we couldn’t have done it without you.
Making sure we can keep being here for everyone
Not only has the pandemic disrupted every part of our lives, but as an organisation, we’ve seen huge changes to the way we all work together. And an unprecedented impact on our financial position.
We expect to be £10 million down from an anticipated income budget of £30 million this year. We do see this improving slightly next year, but still think we’ll be £5 million below where we had hoped to be. This has unfortunately resulted in a two-phase restructure, which has not been easy. But was necessary to make sure we can keep being here for our MS community.
Through all of these changes and challenges, I have been blown away by the consistent hard work, patience, adaptability and resilience colleagues and volunteers have shown. I am so proud and honoured to be a part of such a committed team, and I want to say thank you to each and every one of you.
Looking forward to 2021
As we head into next year, your work and support mean we’re in a strong and positive position. And we have exciting and ambitious plans to keep making a real difference for our community. Thank you so much. We couldn't do what we do without you.
I hope you are all looking forward to a very well earned and relaxing Christmas break, and that you and your loved ones can safely enjoy time together over the holidays.