We're marking the first-year anniversary of virtual operations this week (15th – 19th March). 

The Centre started offering its Virtual Centre through telephone and online means when it was forced to close due to the pandemic, but quickly turned its services around to continue to offer its life-changing support. 

“I’m really proud of my team and everything that has been achieved this year,” said Jane Johnston-Cree, Centre Director at the Neuro Therapy Centre. “Offering virtual services was something of a dream for the future, but when the pandemic struck it soon became a reality. It would have been easy to shut our doors, thinking that we would only be closed for a few weeks, but our Trustee board gave us their support to start providing our services virtually as an immediate measure. We’re so glad we put that time and work into developing our telephone and online services as they have made such a difference in these difficult times.”

Over the year the Centre has made nearly 7000 support calls to people with neurological conditions in north Wales, Cheshire and the Wirral and their carers. They have also had 2864 attendances in their live virtual exercise classes, provided through Zoom. 

“Over the year the number of services we’ve offered has grown, and we are now up to 10 live virtual classes each week, and a series of regular online counselling support groups and social events. We have used telephone services to provide general catch-up conversations to assist with loneliness and advice as well as counselling support. We have also been making the most of our website, social media and newsletters to offer advice, support and entertainment. By focusing on what we can do, instead of worrying about what we can’t, we have achieved a lot!” Jane added. 

The Centre has received fantastic support from its members for the new services and praise for the additional benefits they have experienced accessing support from home. These have included the ability to access the services more frequently meaning they are able to manage their symptoms better, enabling people who are still in work to benefit from the Centre’s services and preventing issues with transport being a problem. It has also helped to prevent deterioration of people’s condition and allowed them to exercise safely in their own homes whilst having to shield. 

“We think that having online services could help us to reach more people in the future too,” said Jane. “We have seen members who have moved out of our area be able to re-use our services again and have even had people wanting to join our services from America.”

The Centre re-opened safely for some face-to-face services last September with full compliance with Covid protections and social distancing. “We have had to limit the number of people we can have in an exercise class and in our gym and oxygen chamber, so our virtual services are still playing a major role in supporting people,” said Jane. “Our members are missing seeing each other face-to-face, so we hope that when it is possible to do so we will open our coffee lounge again, even if it is in a limited way to start with. We have the equipment and a plan ready to do this.”

The Neuro Therapy Centre has been supported by a number of funding bodies to help them establish their virtual and telephone support – The National Lottery Community Fund (Reaching Communities and People & Places), the Steve Morgan Foundation, the Cheshire Community Foundation, The Oakdale Trust, The Williams Family Foundation, The Moondance Foundation, The Edward Gostling Foundation, The Co-op, Cheshire West and Chester Council and Tesco Bags of Help.

“Without the support of these organisations and others, we would not have been able to make our Virtual Centre happen. I’d also like to thank our members, their family and friends and our supporters for their continuing fundraising efforts and donations which have helped us to continue to provide these services for a whole year,” said Jane.

The Centre’s next challenge is to continue to offer its virtual and telephone services while also increasing the number of people able to attend its face-to-face therapies as restrictions lessen. “We’re already making plans on how we can achieve both and that will be our next fundraising challenge. People have gained so much benefit from being able to access our services more flexibly, that we can see so much more potential in new ways of offering our expert support to people without them needing to travel to our Centre in Saltney,” said Jane. “This last year has been a dark one for many, but if we can take something positive from it to help people well into the future, that’s what we’d like to do.”

If you would like to fundraise or make a donation to the Centre to support its work visit here