The Invisible Cafe – a patient’s vision to effect change

Charing Cross Hospital provides services and support in Central London for thousands of people living with multiple sclerosis (MS) from as far afield as Oxford, yet the nearest MS therapy centre is in Harrow.Last year, Roslyn Keiza had a chance encounter at her MS clinic at the hospital, where she met a person who had just finished a treatment infusion. Seeking some peace and quiet post-treatment, the person with MS felt they couldn’t face a public cafe and planned to sit in their car for half an hour or so. ‘It broke my heart,’ Ros said;

‘MS can be such an isolating illness if you let it be and this person had no choice but to be isolated. I needed to do something.’

After talking to her local MS nurses, the MS Trust and the National MS Therapy Centre, Ros developed her vision for a holistic and peaceful service combining a therapies centre, cafe and a whole variety of self-care services.‘There’s this cafe for sale opposite Charing Cross Hospital,’ she explained. ‘It’s like a tardis inside, there’s so many rooms.’ Ros’s dream is for a fully operational cafe, accessible to the wider public at street level but with a secluded downstairs area, where a flash of a band will see a person with MS given a complimentary drink and access to the quieter room.An on-site hairdressers and beautician will have their rent subsidised so that once each week they can offer complimentary services to those with MS, whilst balance therapies like yoga and muscle strengthening, as well as counselling and talks on wellbeing, nutrition and positive mental health will inhabit the many rooms.

‘Positive mental self-care is so important,’ Ros explained. ‘I know that, on a bad day, my mind is just as affected as my body – having a space like this available will reduce the burden on GPs and specialist nurses as people not only have somewhere to go but are able to learn how to support themselves on those bad days.’

‘The Invisible Cafe’, the concept of which is endorsed by The Imperial Trust, The MS Trust, the MS National Therapy Centres and local government, is just a vision at the moment, and one which Ros is currently championing alone. However, with our current national project to tackle variance in MS services highlighting both the need for patient activation and a focus on health and wellness within its 5 workstreams, it is exactly the sort of vision that needs to become reality.Find out more about the Invisible Cafe or to support it financially here.

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