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Our History

For over 25 years we have been supporting people affected by neurological problems

1992: the charity is launched

Neurosurgeon Peter Hamlyn, renowned for his role in saving the life of professional boxer Michael Watson, and Professor Sid Watkins, the much-loved pioneer of modern motorsports medicine and safety, establish the British Brain & Spine Foundation together with a group of other leading neurologists and neurosurgeons. The Foundation aims to improve the quality of life for people with neurological disorders and to reduce neurological disability by providing a national focus for research, education and information.

1995: research begins

Following 3 years of fundraising, the Foundation’s first research projects begin. From 1995 to 2002 the Foundation spends over £1 million on 15 research fellowships and projects, fostering significant successes. Research focuses on conditions such as head injury and brain tumours that are not covered by other ‘condition specific’ charities.

1998: Helpline service offers support

A free Brain & Spine Helpline is established, staffed by nurses and other health professionals who have specialised in neuroscience. The Helpline covers all brain and spine conditions, from the fairly common to the very rare, and can offer information and support on any related issue.

2000: Update in Neurology

In partnership with the Royal College of General Practitioners and the University of Bath, the Foundation introduces a distance learning package to help improve the skills of GPs in neurology. The programme, Update in Neurology, is CD-ROM based and GPs can communicate with their tutors by email.

2001: a new name

The charity drops “British” from its name to become the Brain & Spine Foundation. The new name represents the evolution in the range of services offered since the charity's launch, with a helpline, a range of information booklets and new website now available. It also reflects the international availability of the service.

2003: Michael's biggest fight

Former boxer Michael Watson launches the Foundation into the media spotlight when he undertakes his “biggest fight” to complete the Flora London Marathon in 6 days, 2 hours, 27 minutes and 17 seconds, following a career-ending head injury sustained during a title fight with Chris Eubank. According to his neurosurgeon and good friend (and founder of the Brain & Spine Foundation) Peter Hamlyn, Michael’s marathon amounts to “12 years, 6 operations, 3 hospitals, 26 miles and 385 yards.” He raises £250,000 in aid of our charity.

2004: Children's project

Children with brain tumours and their parents collaborate with the Brain & Spine Foundation to produce a brand new multimedia information resource called Headstrong, which is launched at the Science Museum in London.

2005: Discussion forum

The Brain & Spine Helpline moves its services online with a new website and online discussion forum. For the first time, patients can post their questions on an online forum and interact with other people going through similar experiences.

2007: Information Access Toolkit

During Brain Awareness Week, the Foundation launches the Information Access Toolkit, an online solution for health and social care professionals to meet the information needs of people affected by neurological conditions.

2008: All About Brain Injury

All About Brain Injury is a new website designed for young people aged between 13 and 19 who are affected by acquired brain injury (ABI). The website explains the causes of different types of brain injury and offers practical advice about coping with school, family, friends and more. 

2009-2011: publications for patients

With the help of a grant from the Big Lottery Fund, a new series of booklets and fact sheets is published by the Brain & Spine Foundation, providing expert medical information to people affected by neurological disorders. The publications carry the Information Standard, a new quality mark from the Department of Health, and by 2011 they are being downloaded by 100,000 people each year. 

2012-2013: reaching more people

There are now over three quarters of a million people visiting the website each year, accessing information and downloading publications. For many, reading a website or booklet is all that's needed, but often people also need to talk, ask questions and be reassured. Our Helpline responds to 3,500 requests for information each year, by telephone, email and post.

2013: Our 21st anniversary

It's 21 years since our charity was founded, and we think of 21 fundraising ideas to help celebrate 21 years of the Brain & Spine Foundation.

2014-2015: New booklets

Three new booklets are produced: 'Subarachnoid Haemorrhage', 'Dizziness and Balance Problems' and 'Head Injury', as well as numerous fact sheets on topics such as 'Meningitis' and 'Chiari Malformations'. View all our current publications here.

2016: A conference for patients and carers

This year is a milestone for BSF as we organise the UK's first conference on Subarachnoid Haemorrhage dedicated for patients and carers. We hold a Gala Dinner at the Royal College of Surgeons focusing on generating awareness on head injury in sport. This year BSF also works on a couple of video resources on head injury as part of the charity's commitment to expand the way we offer specialised information through different media channels.

2017: One million pounds raised!

The charity celebrates 25 years! We organise a conference on Chiari malformations and associated conditions, such as syringomyelia, at Queen Square. During the year, 3029 people benefit from our one-to-one expert support and 101,940 booklets and fact sheets are distributed. The charity also launches its first-ever app, aimed at young people affected by brain injury. For the first time in the charity's history, Brain & Spine Foundation raises £1 million, enabling us to support many more people affected by neurological problems. 

Our charity's 25th Anniversary Timeline