MS Society Awards 2017

We’re very excited to announce the winners of the 2017 MS Society awards!

The winners were announced at our awards ceremony in London on 5 May. Congratulations to all the winners and finalists!

Inspiration of the year  - Kadeena Cox MBE

Kadeena has overcome barriers to achieve extraordinary things. Kadeena was diagnosed with MS in 2014 aged 23, and represented Britain in the Paralympic Games in Rio last year.

There she made sporting history by becoming the first British Paralympian since 1984 to win gold in multiple sports at the same Games, winning gold in the 400m sprint and cycling time trials. She also added silver in the relay and a bronze in the 100m sprint for good measure - a remarkable achievement!

Lifetime achievement – Lord Dubs

Lord Dubs’ ongoing political activity, influencing and advocacy work in Parliament ensures that the issues and experiences of people living with MS are heard. He’s been involved in the All Party Parliamentary Group for MS since it began, and is an energetic and dedicated member having held numerous positions.  

He is particularly committed to ensuring adequate MS nurse provision in the UK and has tabled a number of questions to this effect. He’s shown ongoing commitment, passion and support for the MS community. He is an advocate and MS champion.   

Outstanding donor – Hilary Robinson

Hilary is a long-term supporter of the charity and has given generously to the charity for over 33 years.

Category winners

Please click on the category below to find out more about our winners and finalists.

Nominate someone for an MS Society Award

Campaigner

Alan Beevers - Winner

Alan’s main focus for campaigning has been to improve the services and support of people living with MS in the Moray area.

The main achievement for Alan and his campaign group this year is that they identified that a number of people in Moray had not seen a neurologist or rehab consultant for a number of years - the vast majority due to issues relating to travel. As a result Alan and the group started exploring options for delivering clinics in Elgin rather than Aberdeen. Alan started a process of engagement with the Health Board to begin discussions to explore solutions.

Jackie Mumby - Highly commended

Jackie has campaigned with the MS Society against disability benefits cuts and discrimination. Her activity ranges from appearing in the media and influencing parliamentarians to participating in research and shaping policy.

Jackie was accused of being 'a scrounger who was too lazy to work' by her own family and accused of faking her disabled status by strangers on the street. Jackie helped the MS Society to launch their major campaign MS:Enough, and in the subsequent months, was unafraid to stand up for people with MS. She featured on ITV, the Independent and the Goole Times to talk about the unfair Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) assessment process that disadvantages people with invisible symptoms.  

Barbara Stensland - Highly commended

While travelling to an MS Society meeting, Barbara Stensland endured an extremely negative experience when a taxi driver refused her fare as he thought the journey she was going on was too short. A prolific blogger, tweeter and MS champion, Barbara wrote about her experience on her blog which was then noticed by BBC Wales. 

The initial media story that followed led to an investigation by the taxi licencing authority and significant further media coverage. Barbara’s campaign has not only been successful at a local level but also has raised awareness of the stigma and mistreatment of people living with MS across Wales.

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Carer

Mark Brightburn - Winner

Mark cares for Portia, who has secondary progressive MS and epilepsy. He works full time as an Associate Director at an international engineering firm. When he is not at work he is caring for Portia and their three children. He worked with his HR department to create a new UK carers’ procedure at his work and started a carers’ network which gained 150 members in its first year. He campaigns for better support for carers and was active in influencing the Government’s carers strategy. He is also involved with Carers UK and Employers for Carers.

He has campaigned to influence the Government’s new carers strategy, which is due to be published this year. He is keen to see a ‘Care Coordinator’ role created: “Coordinating the various care components is a huge project in its own right. I’m used to managing large projects at work, and I would say that this undertaking is equal to that. This aspect of caring is often overlooked and support is lacking.” Mark is also involved with Carers UK and Employers for Carers.

Peter Connell - Highly commended

Peter cares for his wife Melissa who was diagnosed with MS 40 years ago. Melissa was a classical ballet dancer and a member of the Stuttgart Ballet. They went on to have two children against the advice of her doctors, but she could never dance again. Peter has refused to let MS diminish their lives.

The first thing that Peter said when Melissa was originally diagnosed was “This is not your MS, it is our MS.” And that is how they have coped. It started in small ways and he eventually took on early retirement so as to be her full-time carer.  Over the years Peter has acquired an encyclopaedic knowledge of how to deal with the complications of MS.  He has made it work for them. Their courage and love of one another shines through all they do.

Jamie Nicholson - Highly commended

Debbie, Jamie’s wife , describes Jamie as “My rock – carer, helper, supporter, comedian, chef, chauffeur, cheerer up, motivator, encourager, gardener, cleaner, counsellor, best friend all rolled into one! There for me before, during and after my diagnosis.” 

Jamie has cared for Debbie, making an incredible difference to her life, but he has also raised valuable funds for the MS Society through two Great North Runs. He will complete another one this year. After Debbie’s diagnosis of relapsing MS in 2014, Jamie was there for Debbie every step of the way and stayed strong for the both of them.

He has had to adapt to a different way of life and she could not have managed any of her MS journey without him. Not only does Jamie work full time but he attends all appointments with Debbie, volunteers at the local food Bank, cooks all the meals, drives Debbie to work and back and now does the majority of the house work.

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Young carer (under 18)

Olivia Ferguson - Winner

Olivia is 14 years old and has been her mum's carer since she was eight. She is not only an incredible support to her mum, but also writes a blog 'The Odd Pigeon' to raise awareness of MS and reassure other young carers that they are not alone. So far it has reached 57 countries worldwide and had 17,000 views. The blog shares her experiences, offers advice, links to other information sites and much more.

She has given talks at her school to help other people understand more about MS and how hard it is to be a young carer. Although she supports her Mum physically by helping her with day-to-day things like helping her dress and sorting out her medication, she has also helped her raise a large amount of money for the MS Society over the years. 

Her mum writes: “Olivia is my rock. She talks to me about my emotional state, she encourages and supports me in decisions. MS is hard to deal with, but with the love and support I get from Olivia MS is slightly easier to cope with.”

Olivia Black - Highly commended

Olivia is 11-years old and she cares for her Mum Tanya, who has had MS for 15 years, on a daily basis. Olivia's dad works full time. She is an outstanding young child who undertakes tasks often required of adults such as administering her Mum's beta interferon injection three times per week.

Olivia often has to provide personal care for her mum in the event of her mum having a mishap or accident and no carer being available to support her mum. These tasks include hoisting her mum to the shower chair, washing, dressing and making sure her mum is comfortable.  

The amazing thing about Olivia is her constant pleasant demeanor in carrying out these duties and tasks. She often misses out on fun activities with other young people and on having the normal support most 11-year olds have with a mum without a disability. Olivia never complains and continues to do all of this as well as excelling at her studies and has recently achieved an A grade in the transfer exam in Northern Ireland. She often attends medical appointments and speaks on her mum's behalf to ensure she gets the best medical care. Olivia also ensures that her mum attends any activities that her and her sister do at the weekend, such as highland dancing and other Church activities.  

Olivia is truly an inspiration to all of the family doing her best to live her own life to the full while ensuring her mum is involved in every aspect of family life.

Thomas England - Highly commended

Thomas has been involved in his mother's care from the age of six. He helps with his mother's medication. She's very nervous when she has to inject and Thomas has rubbed painkilling cream and encouraged her to inject. He helped his mother when she fell in the bath. She couldn't get out and Thomas had to help her sit up and make her way out. Thomas supervises his mother when she is in the kitchen as she often forgets that she has put food on or forgets to put the oven off. He often makes the food when he gets home from school for his mother. He also keeps an eye on his mum when they go shopping as she has been known to leave her purse on the counter and her money in the cash machine.

Thomas manages all this despite being in high school.  Even though he has problems with his knees, and has recently had an operation, he is a young fundraiser and a really lovely young person. Thomas has made a big difference to his mother. as his father works long hours and cannot always be there to help.

Having someone as reliable as Thomas gives his mum the peace of mind that there is always someone looking out for her. As his mum has had MS since he was small he just accepts that he can care for his mum and it is now second nature. He also makes a difference to others in the community by always helping the local group raise funds to be used for other living with the effects of MS. He raises awareness of MS in his school too.

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Digital media

Olivia Ferguson – 'The Odd Pigeon' - Winner

In April 2016, Olivia launched her blog "The Odd Pigeon", as her way to raise awareness and share her experience of being a young carer to her mum who has MS. This started as a way to help Olivia explain to others how she was feeling and as a way to help her out, as she used to bottle everything up so after a counselling session. 'The Odd Pigeon' was born and is now read by over 15,310 people in 57 different countries.

Shift.MS – MS Reporters - Highly commended

MS Reporters are curious, energetic citizen journalists who volunteer their own time to find the answers and get information that the MS community want to hear about. They do this by meeting with leading clinical and research experts and asking the questions put forward by the Shift.ms community and wider MS community. These interviews are filmed and edited into small bitesize videos and shared across social media to increase understanding, knowledge and confidence among as many people with MS as possible.

Access to MS healthcare professionals is a postcode lottery and the videos provide the MS community access to world leading professionals no matter where they live. They also seek to break down barriers between healthcare professionals and people living with MS. 

Kate Langwine-Cooke – 'Invisible Illnesses' - Highly commended

Kate works tirelessly and relentlessly to promote awareness of MS. She has campaigned on TV and radio and has many thousands of followers on Facebook and website, ‘Invisible Illnesses’. She has recently made a video with Adam Hills ('The Last Leg') which will be launched on her website and will again raise the profile of not only people with MS, but also individuals with many invisible illnesses and disabilities.

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Employer

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) - Winner

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) has been supportive of Allyn who was diagnosed with MS in 2012.  Allyn had been working for NRWs since 2003 being outdoors and working on heavy plant machinery, chainsaws and excavators. Natural Resources Wales made a real effort to understand what Allyn was facing. They asked for advice from our occupational health providers on how they could support Allyn and also gave him details of an employee assistance scheme with a free, confidential, support service for advice and counselling. 

NRW have supported Allyn in so many ways, including buying an automatic van, time off when he needed it, a new role in the organisation, attending appointments with Allyn and learning about MS. 

Allyn says, "I feel so valued, I have a big input when I visit the sites.  Another way that NRW supports me is by giving me the flexibility to take time off for appointments when I need to. I’m nominating NRW because without the help, I wouldn’t be employed in a job I love doing. I’m proud of what they have done for me and I’m proud to be still doing a valued job for them.”

Syncro Motor Factors - Highly commended

Mark was working as a mechanic when he was diagnosed with MS in 2003. He says he was told “You've got MS......give up work, you're going to be in a wheelchair in the next five to 10 years." He says he went home and cried his heart out as he didn't know what to do.

Mark joined Syncro Motor Factors eight years ago and they have done everything they can to keep him in a job. They have adjusted his hours and allowed him time off when he needs it. They've adapted around Mark and his MS. He says: “They really seem to know my MS better than I do, they can see when I’m struggling and will send me for a break when I need it.”

Syncro Motor Factors is a small company but they cover 300 garages over a 30-mile radius. The company has worked around Mark. When he decided he had to reduce his hours to three days, Mark offered to leave but they told him that he was part of the team and said that they’d rather that he stayed. 

Mark says: “I‘d love the company to get an award for the support they’ve given me. They seem to know my MS better than I do sometimes -  it means so much for me to stay in work.“

Wazoku - Highly commended

Wazoku has built a great partnership with the MS Society, running a two-day 'hackathon' event in late 2016 to help the organisation develop its campaigns and innovation efforts. It also helped Wazoku staff to understand more about MS and the reasons behind their flexible working policies for staff with MS.

The Wazoku team designed their benefits package with the needs of people living with MS, or more hidden physical and mental health conditions in mind. At its core are flexible working hours, remote working and unlimited paid time off to all employees.

Wazoku are also committed to the use of the best cloud technologies available and make these available to all staff. Systems like Microsoft Office365, Slack and Wazoku’s own Idea Spotlight system are available 24/7 on all devices and enable Wazoku to offer remote working and true flexibility of location for all staff without reducing productivity. 

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Fundraiser

Chris and Richard Salter - Winner

Richard and Chris have been involved with the MS Society all their life. They grew up as young carers for their mother Helen who had MS and sadly passed away in July 2015. Over the last three years the twins have raised £18,699.66 for the MS Society through various challenges and events. These have all been done to thank the MS Society for the support they gave their mother and in her memory.

The twins, now aged 24 and living and working away from home, still dedicate their time and efforts to fundraising for the Exeter Group of the MS Society. Their inspiring challenges have seen them travel the world and encourage an impressive level of sponsorship and support from friends, family, colleagues and MS supporters.

In 2014 they both climbed Africa’s highest mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro. Then 2015 saw them take on the 3 peaks challenge. Richard went on to complete an Arctic Husky Trek in 2016. He also completed the London MS Walk 2016 and is currently raising money to trek the Great Wall of China in October of this year. 

Their fundraising has pushed them to the limits, allowed them to travel the world, raised much needed funds and most importantly raised awareness.

Philip and Catherine Barnett - High Peak Fighting MS Fundraising Group - Highly commended

Philip and Catherine Barnett are the driving force behind the 'High Peak Fighting MS Fundraising Group', which is active in Derbyshire and West Yorkshire. Since 2010, they have fundraised over £60,000 for the MS Society, along with their son Tim Barnett and his family and friends. Tim has MS and had to retire last year from his teaching post at Cheadle Hulme School because of it.

Philip and Catherine are passionate about funding the Cambridge Centre for Myelin Repair. They set themselves a true challenge in 2016, when they decided to take their beloved vintage Morris Minor on a 3,000 mile journey around Coastal Britain to fundraise nearly £20,000!

As part of their high profile tours in the Morris Minor (Lands End to John O'Groats in 2013 and Round Britain in 2016), they have raised awareness through local press stories and talking to everyone they meet along the way.  Part of the success in their fundraising for 2016, was the approach for corporate support. The couple linked in with companies, many of whom hadn’t supported the MS Society before. This helped to raise thousands towards the fund, but also awareness in new audiences.

Katie Horton - Highly commended

In April 2016 Katie walked the London Marathon taking just over six hours to complete the course. Due to Katie's fatigue it was going to be impossible for her to run the marathon so she decided to walk. This meant that her training regime started 10 months before the marathon, giving herself enough time to build her strength and resilience to long periods of activity.

Walking resulted in some of her training sessions taking over five hours to complete in cold winter conditions. Yet at the same time she wanted to raise as much money and awareness of MS, therefore she organised a huge list of events. From quiz nights, cake sales, raffles, sponsored hair cuts and swear jars - to name but a few. These resulted in Katie raising an impressive £15,000 for the MS Society. Each time she was promoting the work the charity does and explaining some of the symptoms associated with MS so that others can understand more about the condition. 

Due to Katie's fundraising efforts she was invited to talk at MS Life in September to help motivate others with MS to become more active. Katie is a very shy person but she was determined to help in any way she could, so she agreed to present her story to those at the event. She said she wasn't sure which was more difficult, the marathon or the speech!

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Young fundraiser (under 18)

Zoe Sutton-Adamson - Winner

Since being diagnosed with MS two years ago at the age of 16, Zoe has managed to raise £5,947.69 for the MS Society. She has signed up to do a zip slide at the end of April and is planning a charity fun night where all the proceeds will also be donated to the MS Society. She organised a team of friends and family with collecting cans and managed to collect a significant amount of money over two shows performed by our local drama group, Clydebank Musical Society.

She also prepared a presentation and along with some school friends, she won £3,000 from The ‘Youth Philanthropy Initiative’ (YPI). This prize sum was donated to the Clydebank Group of the MS Society. When close friends of ours celebrated their silver wedding anniversary they asked for people to donate to the MS Society in honour of Zoe instead of gifts. 

Zoe has an amazing attitude to her MS and always remains so positive, even on her ‘bad days’ she always has a smile and some quirky one liner to try and make light of any situation. She has started a Facebook support group called ‘Young MS-ers’ in the hope that she can spread her positivity to other young people who are in the same situation as her. 

Eleanor Bull - Highly commended

Eleanor, who is six-years old, loves baking. When she heard that her Uncle Paul had been diagnosed with MS she desperately wanted to do something to help. She turned her baking skills to good effect by holding a Hot chocolate and Cake morning. She designed and sent out the invitations and set up her parents' kitchen as her cafe. She raised £427.60 for the MS Society. Eleanor sent out thank you letters to all those who visited her cafe and to those who contributed but were unable to attend.

Eleanor carefully planned the whole event and called on her parents, grandparents and even some of her young school friends to help. Time was spent choosing cakes and biscuits that would be popular in the run-up to Christmas. The kitchen was decorated festively and the 'customers' could not help but part from their money. Eleanor took on the role of waitress, showing her visitors to their seats and writing down their orders in her notebook. Her father was in charge of the hot chocolate and her mother acted as cashier while Eleanor made sure everyone had everything they needed. There were toys, games and balloons for the young children to play with once they had had their fill of Rudolph and Santa cakes and biscuits.  ll needs were catered for and an enjoyable and profitable time was had by all.  

Jack Humphrey - Highly commended

Jack decided to organise a charity walk to raise money for the MS society after his grandfather was diagnosed with MS. He organised a raffle by going to local businesses and organised a fun day after the walk at the local pub, raising £1,100.

Jack came home from school and told his mum that he wanted to raise money to make grandad's legs better. Jack designed a JustGiving page and set up his task to arrange a sponsored walk around the country park. He contacted the MS Society and got t-shirts, banners, balloons and information leaflets about MS to give out. He also contacted local papers to promote his story and invite anyone and everyone to come and support his walk. Then he went to local businesses to get raffle prizes for his tombola and arranged with the local pub to hold extra activities after the walk, such as a BBQ. He even negotiated the profits going in to the pot. 

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Media

Fergus Walsh, BBC - Winner

In January 2016 a documentary aired on BBC One's Panorama called 'Can you stop my multiple sclerosis?' which focused on autologous haematopoietic stem cell transplant (AHSCT or just HSCT) for people with MS. Used as a treatment for cancer, the documentary looked at how the stem cell transplant could actually rather dramatically improve the lives of people living with aggressive forms of MS. It followed researched published the year before which showed the potential of HSCT as a new treatment for MS.

Documentaries of this kind are not common on the BBC or anywhere else and naturally the show attracted a lot of attention from the media and the MS community. This nomination is for the BBC medical correspondent Fergus Walsh, who led the media work surrounding the show

Fergus' article in relation to the programme was well researched and accurate, and most importantly, balanced. Fergus' media work highlighted the risks as well as the benefits that this stem cell transplant could offer people with MS. And it paved the way and set the tone for other stories on this issue across the BBC, including broadcast radio interviews, and in other media outlets - like the Guardian.

Dan Bloom, Daily Mirror - Highly commended

In March 2016 the Government announced they would cut the disability benefit Personal Independence Payment (PIP) by as much as £150 a week for some claimants. Their proposals suggested they planned to change the way people with disabilities were assessed for the benefit.

At the time, lots of people qualified for the benefit if they could demonstrate they could not do a certain activity - like get dressed - without an aid or appliance. The Government was proposing that those who only qualified for the benefit because they used an aid or appliance would no longer receive the benefit, as these 'tools' could be bought using a one of sum of money. Daily Mirror journalist Dan Bloom who, over a two-week period, published several articles in relation to this story and the Government's proposals.

Dan Bloom, along with other supportive journalists and the work of charities, eventually applied enough pressure to the Government to see them u-turn on their decision. Plans were dropped and the benefit has remained the same. The Government's u-turn over proposed changes to PIP made a huge difference to the lives of people with MS. The MS Society's estimations showed around 17,000 people with MS could be affected by the cut and in the very worse cases they could lose up to £150 a week. Dan was one of many journalists writing about this issue, but was nominated because of his ongoing consistency to the fight. 

Caroline Wyatt, BBC - Highly commended

In the summer of 2016 the BBC journalist and former war correspondent Caroline Wyatt announced she was living with MS. She did an interview with the Radio Times, saying she was stepping down from reporting after being diagnosed. The story was picked up widely by newspapers including the Daily Mail, Telegraph, Guardian and i Paper.

Caroline‘s announcement that she was living with MS had a huge impact on the MS community. For many, she was a face often seen on their TV screens who had reported from war zones in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. Suddenly, here she was talking about the impact her MS diagnosis had had on her, how it had forced her to step down from her job and how scared she was for the future.

After the initial flurry of interest in her news, Caroline went on to do more media work to raise awareness. She wrote a long article for the Daily Mail and also appeared on BBC Radio 5 live alongside a neurologist and an MS Society spokesperson. 

Caroline’s decision to talk publicly about living with MS had the impact of telling a whole new audience about the realities of the condition, while also bringing together those personally affected by MS. 

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MS Professional kindly supported by  

Royal Stoke Multiple Sclerosis Team - Winner

The Royal Stoke MS Team cares for about 2,500 people with MS in the North Midlands and surrounding areas. Over the last 18 months the team has successfully transformed the regional MS service into a “Centre of Excellence”, recruiting three extra MS nurses, two MS consultants and a dedicated Admin Coordinator following a successful business case in August 2015. The aim was to deliver a high quality, accessible and comprehensive service that covers the entire care pathway for all people with MS in the region. 

The achievements have been a quality improvement, which has brought a real difference to the lives of hundreds of people affected by MS living in the region. They have launched an innovative MS nurse on-call service “MS Response Stoke” to help with rapid access for urgent advice, early relapse assessment and ward review for in-patients. The diagnostic pathway was also transformed into a rapid one-stop diagnostic clinic through rapid access to diagnostics. And DMTs assessment pathway was transformed into less than four weeks target from referral.

A recent survey of patients attending treatments at the MS Centre showed that 90% rated the service as 10/10. 100% of surveyed patients felt welcomed and treated with respect and dignity at all times. A patient commented: “The whole service from nurses, infusions suite to MS centre is always excellent. Everyone is kind, caring, supportive, understanding. I always have a very positive experience. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”.

100% of patients in the regional MS Facebook group created by the team felt that it improved their knowledge of the condition too.

Mhairi Coutts - Highly commended

Mhairi is an MS specialist nurse, working with NHS Lanarkshire, the third largest health board in Scotland. There are an estimated 1,600 people with MS living in Lanarkshire and Mhairi services a caseload of patients totalling over 1,200 people. She is the only MS specialist nurse employed by the health board.

In her role, Mhairi covers all aspects of care and case management for her patients, including monitoring and supporting around 400 people on disease modifying therapies. With such an enormous caseload, Mhairi has employed a range of innovative measures to support her work, including building a number of highly effective partnerships and collaborations. She has embraced Scottish health policy best practice recommendations by bringing her clinics out into the communities where her patients live and work. This makes her services accessible and patient-friendly and reducing travel inequalities within this expansive geography, particularly for rural patients.

For Mhairi, her patients are her number one priority, and she’s always looking for ways in which to lessen the impact of MS. Mhairi’s innate understanding of living with MS has no doubt been sharpened by having the condition affect her immediate family, and by being an MS carer in her personal life, as well as in her clinical role.

Mhairi has also chaired the Scottish MS specialist nurse network for the last two years, and has mentored and supported new MS nurses coming into post with great success.

The Physiotherapy/Gym team at the Beds and Northants MS Therapy Centre - Highly commended

The physiotherapy team at the Beds and Northants MS Therapy Centre go all out to provide positive, active, sensitive, expert and individualised neuro- physiotherapy to people with MS, day in, day out. They assess the person and provide hands-on physiotherapy, including specific treatments for pain, such as ultrasound and electro deep massage. They also use equipment such as trampolines, gym balls, standing frames, wobble boards and the hydro-therapy pool, and also run balance groups with games, competition and laughter. They are experts in MS and liaise with other professionals to get the best treatments and services for their patients. They often have to advocate very hard on their behalf to do so.

Many of the people who come to the neuro-physio service at the MS Therapy Centre have felt left behind and overlooked by the very strained services of the NHS, whose practitioners have to discharge their patients after a set time, or number of visits. To have access to a service that can offer physical therapy based on their individual needs, rather than the needs of the service, is a wonderful thing. Because the physiotherapy department is run by experienced neuro-physios, with the help of assistants, there is more a spirit of rehabilitation and pushing boundaries. The innovative way that the service is integrated, means that people with MS can flow between seeing the physiotherapist, spending time working on their fitness in the physio-supervised gym or hydro pool, or even book sessions with the ancient Japanese form of physiotherapy, Shiatsu.  

So many people with MS in the counties of Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire have benefitted and are benefitting from the generous and positive help of the physiotherapy team at this centre.

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MS Society group

Mid-Ulster group - Winner

The Mid Ulster group were nominated for the distance they have travelled in the past three years in their service provision and presence in their local area. They help people living with MS through their teamwork, vision and their ability to turn a thought or random idea into a successful event that goes on to inspire other groups.

This is a great group of people and they have totally transformed their group in recent years. Three years ago they had only a committee meeting each month…fast forward to the present day and the difference they are now making to people locally who are living with MS is immense. They have a lunch club, a supper club, reflexology sessions, Christmas dinners, grant giving, a monthly support group trying to suit all interests and ages, and the brilliant events they have successfully hosted. 

Furness group - Highly commended

The Furness Group (formerly Barrow Branch) has been active since the early 1970s. It has held a fortnightly meeting in the physiotherapy department at Furness General Hospital since it began. At these meetings people can have individual physiotherapy, gentle group exercise, hydrotherapy, reflexology, chiropody and social support and friendly conversation. These therapies are given free of charge.

The group is the 'face' of MS in the Furness area. Its work has raised public awareness of MS and has helped increase fundraising for both local and national MS projects. To help with outreach they use social media, a newsletter, website and members of the group have taken part in local TV and radio programmes about MS and the work of the MS Society and their local MS nurse. 

Reading, Wokingham and District group - Highly commended

The Reading, Wokingham and District Group is a vibrant group of committed and dedicated volunteers. They run a number of services and activities for people living with MS, and over time have extended their area of support. They offer a weekly drop-in facility for anyone living with MS, which includes the opportunity to join in a seated exercise class, and make use of computer facilities.

Extra volunteers help out every week to provide a cooked lunch for everyone who attends. In addition, the group offers access to a weekly hydrotherapy session at the hospital and there are a number of social groups that meet together on an informal basis, including a group for partners and carers, and also MSquared - which is aimed at younger people with MS. 

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Political supporter

Mark Isherwood - Winner

Following his election to the National Assembly for Wales in 2003, Mark Isherwood has been a firm friend of the MS community throughout Wales. Mark plays an active role in a number of a Cross Party Groups but as chair of the Cross Party Group for Neurosciences/Neurological Conditions and Cross Party Group on Disability, he has made a significant contribution championing the cause of people living with MS.

As a constituency Assembly Member, Mark has fought hard to raise awareness of the condition and improve access to services and treatments. He has also chaired the Cross Party Group for Neurosciences/Neurological Conditions since its inception in April 2009. From that time Mark has led the group, undertaking inquiries into the understanding of neurological conditions and access to neurophysiotherapy. Notably under the Chairmanship of Mark the Cross Party Group has influenced the development of the Welsh Government’s Neurological Conditions Delivery Plan.

Mark has been instrumental in ensuring that the Cross Party Group exists to improve services for and work with people affected by neurological conditions in the process. To this end, Mark has hosted several events at the Senedd, bringing people living with MS together to engage with Assembly Members throughout Wales.

George Adam MSP - Highly commended

George Adam is the Convener of the Cross Party Group (CPG) on MS in the Scottish Parliament. He was instrumental in setting up the CPG in 2014 and again in re-convening the CPG in 2016 following the Scottish Parliament election. George has continually and consistently raised the profile of MS and the MS Society in the Scottish Parliament through contributions to Parliamentary debates, motions, and working with fellow Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSP). His contribution is invaluable and his support is unwavering.

George has put MS firmly on the political agenda in Scotland. He has raised the profile of the condition by continually mentioning it in Parliamentary debates and promoting the work of the MS Society with fellow MSPs. However, it is in his work on the Cross Party Group on MS that George has had his greatest impact. It is fair to say that without George's involvement and drive there may well not be a CPG on MS and we know that, as Convener, George is always willing to ask the difficult questions to help improve the lives of people with MS. He has helped to secure cross party participation in the CPG and has encouraged new MSPs to get involved.  

Alf Dubs - Highly commended

Lord Dubs was nominated for his tireless contribution to the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for MS, and his continued efforts to ensure the issues experienced by people with MS are raised in Parliament. Lord Dubs has been involved in the APPG for MS since its inception, and has been integral to its continued success. He has recruited new members, attended numerous meetings and ensured other members of the APPG sign up to the annual plan and take part in the activities of the Group.

Lord Dubs is perhaps the most energetic and dedicated member of the APPG for MS, having held numerous officer positions in the Group. He was actively involved in the APPG for MS review of employment support, attending the review evidence sessions as well as the launch of the report itself in November 2016. He is particularly committed to ensuring adequate MS Nurse provision in the UK (due to his personal experience of the value of an MS Nurse), and has tabled a number of questions to this effect - these have been central to the MS Society's work to improve access to treatments and specialists in the UK. 

As a Peer he has fewer opportunities to support people with MS locally (compared with an MP for example). His commitment in the House and continued willingness to visit MS services to learn more about how treatment, care and support could be improved more than makes up for this.

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Research

Cause and prevention of demyelination in a model multiple sclerosis lesion published in Annals of Neurology 2016;79:591–604 by Kenneth Smith, Roshni Desai and colleagues - Winner

This nomination is for the following piece of research:

In MS, the myelin coating that protects our nerves gets attacked by our immune system. This study found that myelin damage is more likely to occur in parts of the brain that are low in oxygen.

These researchers showed that damage to myelin can be reduced or stopped, in rats, by temporarily increasing the oxygen supply to the brain during attacks. This has opened up a new area of research for possible treatments.

Tamoxifen accelerates the repair of demyelinated lesions in the central nervous system published in Nature Scientific Report 2016. 6, 31599 by Mark Kotter, Ginez  Gonzalez, Matthias Hofer and colleagues - Highly commended

This nomination is for the following piece of research:

To stop the symptoms of MS we need to be able to repair any damage to the protective myelin coating around nerve cells. This study treated rats with a well-established breast cancer drug.

These researchers showed that tamoxifen increased the number of myelin-making cells in the brain and boosted the amount of repair. We hope that this will now be investigated further, because repurposing medicines that are known to be safe could make them available more quickly.

Time- and Region-Specific Season of Birth Effects in Multiple Sclerosis in the United Kingdom published in JAMA Neurology 2016;73(8):954-960 by Jacqueline Palace, Pedro María Rodríguez Cruz and colleagues.

This nomination is for the following piece of research:

To prevent MS it is important to understand what factors affect the likelihood of developing the condition. This study looked at seasonal and regional variations in a large representative group of people.

These researchers showed that the risk of developing MS is linked to the month you are born. Although this population study cannot explain the reasons for these links it highlights the importance of people’s backgrounds when planning any studies or clinical trials into MS.

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Volunteer  kindly supported by 

Jan Bloomer - Highly commended

Jan has been an MS Society volunteer since 2002, when she became a member of the Maidenhead Group (now East Berkshire). Since then she has held various roles within the group, including newsletter editor, founder and leader of the 18-40ish young people's club and Group Chair.

She has played a key role in developing the branch over the past 10 years and beyond. She has had MS since 1984 and has worked tirelessly to ensure that other people with MS in the area are supported, regardless of what their varying needs may be. She’s a force to be reckoned with for getting things done and is evolving with the times. She’s helped to adapt and modify what the group offers so that it remains current and relevant to the changing needs of its members.

Malcolm Glister - Highly commended

Malcolm works tirelessly as Chairman/Group Coordinator for the MS Society South and West Cornwall Group.

He organises social events and activities, produces a monthly magazine, arranges printing of the magazine, provides yearly diaries to anyone who requires them to manage their time and runs the therapy voucher scheme to provide £200 of therapy vouchers to people with MS. He is constantly trying to gain volunteers for fundraising, collections and events to keep the group going to ensure he can keep providing these services. 

Tom Hunter - Winner

Tom Hunter is seemingly omnipresent when it comes to the MS Society in Northern Ireland. Volunteer counsellor, member of the Northern Ireland Council, policy expert adviser and hands on in anything required of him. Tom is a rock of the organisation.  

He was nominated specifically for his recent work in developing the counselling service in Northern Ireland to such an impressive standard. People living with MS are being positively affected by Tom on a daily basis and thanks to his ambition and investment in other counsellors it has a long and bright future in which to continue that positive and practical impact.

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