Questions about MS? Call us on 0808 800 8000
The photo shows Nick smiling at the camera

The pandemic couldn't dampen the spirits of our incredibly driven community

Our Chair of Trustees Nick Winser reflects on what we achieved together in 2021.

We planned for an exciting 2021. We hoped we could start doing many of the activities we paused in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

And while COVID was still a big part of our lives and work, it couldn't dampen the spirits of our incredibly driven community. We continued to support each other through one of the most turbulent times in our recent history.

Support and information on COVID for people with MS

I'm always humbled by the determination and passion of our staff, volunteers and supporters. Together, we maintained as much of our work as possible to make sure people living with MS had the support and information they needed. 

We worked with our medical advisers to keep our community updated with the latest guidance on COVID-19 and MS. Alongside other health charities, we made sure the concerns of people with underlying health conditions were heard by politicians and the media. And that they received the information they needed to make decisions about vaccines.

Significant milestone in MS research

We achieved a significant milestone in MS research. We signed contracts to set up and deliver our ground-breaking clinical trial, Octopus, with University College London. Octopus is the first ever multi-arm, multi-stage trial for MS and will transform the way we test treatments with potential to slow or stop progression. Our Stop MS Appeal is now more than halfway towards raising £100 million to accelerate research into MS.

I'm incredibly proud of all the years of hard work that has got us to this point. And we can see a future where everyone can get really effective treatment for MS.

MS Helpline and local support

Our MS Helpline gives crucial support to people affected by MS. In 2021, we responded to around 28,000 enquiries. This included 2,900 calls and emails to our MS nurses who help people with specific medical questions. 

Our volunteers, who run our 242 local groups, provided over 1,400 services to people with MS, their friends and families in their communities. This included a range of activities to help people stay active, receive information and emotional support. During the pandemic many groups offered online support and activities. This meant people affected by MS who were shielding could connect with and support one another without leaving their homes. 

Campaigning for access to Sativex and improved access to neurology services 

We continued to speak out for the MS community on a range of vital issues. 

We launched our Approved but Denied campaign calling for people with MS to have access to the symptom relief treatment Sativex in England. Over 2,000 people emailed their clinical commissioning group (CCG) asking them to make the treatment available. And as a result, NHS England wrote to all CCGs to promote Sativex as recommended by NICE. 

We also launched our Neurology Now campaign. Almost 8,000 people signed open letters to governments across the UK. They called for more funding for neurology so people with MS can get the essential care they need. NHS England has now confirmed it will appoint a National Clinical Director for Neurology. 

Fundraising for the MS Society

A further highlight in 2021 was restarting many of our face-to-face fundraising events. 

There are lots of ways to raise money for the MS Society. But last year’s activities included our MS Walks, various running events and our Christmas Carol Concert at St Paul’s Cathedral. Not only do these events raise vital funds for MS, they also help to bring so many people from our community together. 

Our commitment to equality

I’m pleased to say the Board of Trustees also signed off the organisation’s new Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy. This sets out our commitment to equality and how we need to be a more diverse and inclusive organisation.

We want to be here for everyone affected by MS. And until we are, we aren't going to fulfil our core mission of a world free from the effects of MS. 

Read our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion strategy

Thank you and goodbye from Nick

2021 also marked my last full year as Chair of the MS Society, as I stand down in July. It’s been a pleasure to serve the MS community over the last five years. I’m immensely proud of what the organisation has achieved in that time and what we’ll go on to achieve.

Thank you to you all for your ongoing support and commitment to our cause – it’s only together that we can stop MS.

Explore our annual report from 2021