VIDEO: New MS centre manager talks of hopes for the future

The Sussex MS Centre has a new manager, who is looking to a bright future with hopes of expansion.

Ben Bloom, 38, said the team is currently in talks with Adur District Council about a new building in Southwick Recreation Ground.

New manager Ben Bloom with members at the Sussex MS Centre. Picture: Derek Martin DM1812600a

New manager Ben Bloom with members at the Sussex MS Centre. Picture: Derek Martin DM1812600a

He revealed: “We do have limits in the size of the building we have but we do have a plan for a new building within a five-year period, on the same site. It will be bigger and purpose-built.”

People come from all over Sussex for hyperbaric oxygen therapy in the multi-place chamber. Up to five people can use the chamber per session but, if the plans go ahead, the new one would be bigger and more accessible for larger wheelchairs.

Ben said: “Some people come for the oxygen for other neurological conditions but we are so busy now that we cannot accept new members for therapy who do not have MS.

“Most people notice it more when they don’t have it, rather than when they do have it. They don’t necessary come out of the chamber renewed but the effects are progressive the more it is done.”

The multi-place chamber for hyperbaric oxygen therapy DM1812621a

The multi-place chamber for hyperbaric oxygen therapy DM1812621a

Trustee Christopher Fox-Walker, 78, from Eastbourne is one of the oldest members and has benefited from the weekly oxygenation treatment for more than 30 years.

He said: “This is a new era in the history of the centre. It costs about £120,000 to operate the centre, all self-funding. We get no money from government but have had wonderful support in many ways, for many years, from Adur District Council.”

The centre, in Croft Avenue, Southwick, won the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service in 2013 and was the only charity in West Sussex to receive it that year.

Ben said: “It is a phenomenal centre and I think what struck me was the abundance of volunteers who are willing to give their time, that says a lot and we will always need that. I think we are all invested here.

“It is a non-clinical environment, it doesn’t feel stuffy and everything is approachable, some say it is like walking into someone’s front room.

“It is a membership centre and everything we do is controlled by our members’ needs. As a centre, we are always looking to the future and how to develop new services. We are always talking to our members and asking what they want.”

There is a voices workshop, which allows members to manipulate their vocal chords and facial muscles through singing, there are drop-in classes such as keep fit and yoga, plus one-to-one therapies like massage and physiotherapy.

Ben said: “I have never worked with MS before but I have worked with other charities and done support roles, as well as running retail premises, so those experiences have come together in this role.

“It is great because I am learning lots every day and I am learning from the people who are living with MS. Understanding the individuality of MS is important as not everyone has it the same as others.”

The centre has 600 members from across Sussex and sees about 300 people visit the centre each week. A new operations and events manager is being recruited to in place by the end of March, with a view to setting up events for the summer.