Dorset ME Support Group (DMESG) had its genesis in 1983 as the Dorset Branch of the national [ME Association]. It set up nine local Link Groups, each with its own leader, to provide a focus for social interaction and mutual support.
Having recognised the paucity of NHS provision for those with ME, the Dorset Branch, under its first Chairman, Dick Patterson, successfully persuaded the Area Health Authority to set up the NHS CFS/ME Clinic at Wareham Hospital in 1998. Crucial to this initiative was the raising of £18,000 by the Branch towards the cost of the Clinic. The Branch also managed the Clinic for the first 3 years of its existence. This was the start of a valuable and robust partnership with the NHS.
There were two key events in 2001. After a very favourable report by Prof. Stephen Holgate of Southampton University, confirming the success and effectiveness of the Clinic, the local primary care trust accepted full responsibility for funding and managing the Clinic within the NHS. Secondly, Branch members voted to create the Dorset ME Support Group as a separate registered charity.
An Executive Committee of Trustees was formed to administer the group, and appointed a Chairman, Treasurer and Honorary Secretary from within their ranks. Also in 2001, one of our Trustees with CAB experience started to provide benefits advice to members on a voluntary basis.
With the range of needs of a growing membership, and particularly for those who are severely affected, The Trustees agreed that these could not be adequately met by volunteers. In 2002 Lottery funding was secured to permit a Self-care Co-ordinator to be employed part-time for a 3 year contract. This was followed in 2005 by a further Lottery grant to employ a part-time Benefits Advisor for 3 years.
Also in 2005, funding was secured to employ a part-time Child Support Worker to work with the newly created NHS CFS/ME Service operating in Dorset County and Poole Hospitals. This was a pilot project which was so successful that Children in Need agreed to fund the post for a further 3 years from June 2008.
Dick Patterson stepped down as Chairman of the Group in May 2006. He occupied this position from the Support Group’s inception as the Dorset Branch of the ME Association, and guided it through the turbulent process of becoming a separate registered charity. His dedication and knowledge was recognised by his fellow Trustees who made him President of the Dorset ME Support Group. His major role in achieving the establishment of the NHS CFS/ME Clinic at Wareham community Hospital was also recognised nationally with the richly deserved award of the MBE for services to people with ME in the New Years Honours List of January 2007.
In November 2008, a celebratory dinner was held to mark 10 years of operation of the Wareham Clinic, attended by those who had been instrumental in setting up and running the clinic, and those who now provide the specialist CFS/ME service to a very high standard. Sadly, Dr Chris Moran, who was instrumental in establishing both the Clinic and the NHS CFS/ME Service, is no longer with us, but his legacy lives on.
In October 2009, Ros Patterson, our first Honorary Secretary lost her hard fought battle with cancer. She was the heart of the Dorset ME Support Group, absolutely committed to the Group and its members, and sorely missed by her colleagues and the many members over the years to whom she gave her time and hugely sympathetic support. As one who had been badly affected by ME, she understood what people were going through, but the huge amount of work she did ‘behind the scenes’ was truly phenomenal. As Dick Patterson’s ‘other half’, they presented a formidable and enormously successful team. Those with CFS/ME in Dorset are very fortunate that Dick and Ros drove forward the creation of the Dorset ME Support Group out of the Dorset Branch of the ME Association – which they had also supported and developed.