On a late summers evening in 1989 a group of renal patients, their relatives and friends gathered at a house in Sutton. It wasn’t a social gathering. Many of them hadn’t met before and yet, from that gathering, the vision of the South West Thames Institute for Renal Research was born.
The meeting had been arranged by Mike Bending in response to the essential need for research. Shortly after that meeting the Epsom Kidney Fund was renamed the South West Thames Kidney Fund and the small group of enthusiasts created a network of local branches under the patronage of the now Lord Richard Rogers of Riverside, son of the Renal Unit’s founder, Dr William Rogers.
Initially, the Trustees decided that the best way to promote renal research was to raise sufficient monies to build a Renal Research Institute on the St Helier hospital site. The challenge of raising the £745,000 to build, and then fund and equip the new laboratories was formidable and not without its problems and disappointments but it was a fascinating process with tremendous support from patients, staff, carers, relatives and friends. After 8 years of charitable appeals, grant applications and numerous and varied fundraising efforts, with the support of the then St Helier NHS Trust, a two-storey purpose built laboratory block was built. It was completed in November 1997. In March 1998, in a formal ceremony, Lord Rogers opened the South West Thames Institute for Renal Research.
Having achieved its original aim, the South West Thames Kidney Fund changed its emphasis in fundraising. With the laboratories built, the activities of the Institute needed overseeing, and actual research projects needed funding. It costs about £400,000 a year to run the Institute and the Fund’s present contribution is approximately half of this. The Fund’s share may well rise in view of the changing in funding in the NHS and increased research. We still need patients, staff, carers, relatives and friends to help fundraise.
In October 2008 the Fund celebrated the Institute’s 10th birthday with a reception at the House of Lords hosted by Lord Rix of Whitehall.