ABIL – a short history

ABIL celebrated its 10 year anniversary at its Conference on 5 December 2017 (download the programme here ). ABIL is affiliated to UKABIF and below is a short history of how it began, who was involved and what we have done.


The two main activists responsible for establishing ABIL were Richard Morrison (at that time Chair of Headway East London) and Geeta Nayar (Solicitor at Irwin Mitchell). The first steering group meeting was held in December 2006 – the members included – in addition to Richard and Geeta – Patti Simonson, Catherine Symington (then at Blackheath – FSHC), Kate Woodward-Nutt, Annie Clacey and Norman Keen.

The inaugural conference and launch was on 12 March 2007. The main speakers were Dr. Richard Greenwood and – as keynote speaker – Professor Sir Graham Teasdale – neurosurgeon ands co-developer of the Glasgow Coma Scale . His talk was entitled ‘Early & Late Consequences of Head Injury’.

The aims of ABIL are: to raise awareness of Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) across London; to encourage the development and dissemination of good practice; and to campaign for better services for ABI survivors and their families and carers across London.


ABIL has, with the support of Irwin Mitchell, generally held four half-day conferences a year on a wide range of subjects. Our speakers have usually been from London and the surrounding areas. A further notable exception was Jocelyn Harpur from the Community Brain Injury Service in Down Lisburn Northern Ireland, who spoke in 2008 about ‘Acquired Brain Injury. A Perspective from Northern Ireland’, where health and social care are integrated. She gave a fascinating account of how her own service had reorganised itself to provide improved and faster access to the Community Brain Injury Service.

The conferences – which are typically attended by 50-70 people – provide in addition to the information conveyed by the presentations – a very good opportunity for networking. ABIL tries to make available afterwards as many of the presentations as possible on its website.

Website and London service directory

Fairly early in its life, ABIL decided that it wanted to provide on its website a directory of brain injury services in London. This was initially based upon a ‘Neuromap’ that Richard Greenwood at the Homerton RNRU had created.

The website and service directory was set up in close collaboration with Julien Payne, Titleworth, which hosted and managed the website from 2009 to 2014.

A new website was created in 2015, with support from Irwin Mitchell, and continues to provide an up-to-date directory of brain injury services in London – see https://abil.co.uk/category/services/

ABIL Chairs & Executive Committee

ABIL has had a number of Chairs – Richard Morrison, Steve Winter (Titleworth), Norman Keen (Vice Chair, Headway East London), Dr Anita Rose (now at the Raphael Medical Centre), and Tony Hart (previously Queen Elizabeth Foundation Neuro Rehab Services, and now Headway South East London/North West Kent).

ABIL has had – and continues to have – many excellent and innovative Executive Committee members – mainly clinicians – but not entirely – for example, Adrian Whyatt, Dr John Murphy and Sarah Eynstone (brain injury survivors) and Norman Keen (a carer). Richard Greenwood, Patti Simonson and Norman Keen remain Executive Committee members to the present day, and Emma Taylor (Irwin Mitchell) has been involved in providing support to ABIL from the early days.

The current Executive Committee is shown at https://abil.co.uk/the-abil-committee

And also

ABIL currently has about 400 members on its mailing list.

ABIL successfully provided a platform for the specialised pan-London Neurorehabilitation Consortium (LNRC) – run by Kellie Blane – to inform a wider audience about the work of the Consortium. The LNRC was ‘subsumed’ in 2012 into the national arrangements -the NHS England Clinical Reference Group for Specialised Rehabilitation for Patients with Highly Complex Needs .

During the last 10 years ABIL has responded to a number of consultations – see https://abil.co.uk/abil-response-to-consultations/ – and has used its influence to lobby in a few cases where it felt that the system was not doing what it should.

In 2015, ABIL held a major Art Exhibition at St Paul’s Cathedral from 27 January to 26 February to show the art work of a number of brain injury survivors from across London, and in doing so, raise awareness of brain injury (see https://abil.co.uk/news-3 )

None of this would have been possible without the support of Irwin Mitchell and we would like to express our thanks and appreciation for their ongoing support. Thank you also to past and present Executive Committee members for all their work in making it possible for ABIL to continue its excellent work and to all the wonderful presenters. We hope you can join us at our 10 year anniversary conference on 5 December!

Tony Hart & Norman Keen