Our history

A History of the Physiotherapy Benevolent Fund - 1917 – 2023

The Early Days of the Profession

In 1894 four nurses, Lucy Robinson, Rosalind Paget, Elizabeth Manley and Margaret Palmer started the “Society of Trained Masseuses” after seeing stories in the Press warning young nurses and the public of unscrupulous people offering massage as a euphemism for other services 

At the time the population class structure was in place, healthcare had to be paid for, although there were some free hospitals and a few medical schemes There were no State benefits - if a person could not support themselves and family, the Work House was the final provision. 

In 1914 War broke out… The Royal Army Medical Corp (RAMC) was responsible for maintaining the health and fighting strength of forces in the field. Sick or wounded men were treated or evacuated as quickly as possible through the Regimental First Aid Post, to the Advanced Dressing Station to the Casualty Clearing Station - a basic hospital close to the front. This was the nearest to the front that female nurses were allowed to serve. 

Remember…no antibiotics, clean water supplies were often restricted, mud and manure from horses meant infections were common and wounds could become gangrenous. Leg amputations were performed for compound leg fractures, trench foot occurred from standing in water for long periods and was frequent. Infectious diseases would spread rapidly and mental breakdown occurred due to the constant bombardments and noise together with the continuing loss of comrades to injury and death. 

Almeric Paget was a very wealthy man married to a wealthy American socialite Pauline Whitney Paget. At the outbreak of the war he offered to supply and run a corps of 50 trained masseuses to the British War Office. 50 women were placed in military hospitals in Britain together with those who had volunteered their services. 

In 1917 members were allowed to work overseas – 56 members were working in Italy and France by the end of 1917. By the end of the war over 2,000 masseuses and masseurs were at work and 3,400 Society members were engaged by the Corps at some time. 

Post war The Almeric Paget Corps was decommissioned and ‘The Military Massage Service' was formed under the auspices of the Army and Pensions Massage Association. 

The Members’ Fund


In January 1917 ‘The Members’ Fund’ was initiated by  Sarah Grafton (Chair of the Incorporated Society of Trained Masseuses 1916-18) in response to the needs of Society members no longer able to support themselves or their families as a result of the Great War. 

Members lost fathers, brothers, fiancés and friends. The masseuses were single and those who had volunteered had no paid income from their work. Some lost allowances from their families as well their loved ones. These members were struggling to survive and reliant on the goodwill of colleagues and other friends, and some were injured during their work.

An article was printed in the ‘Incorporated Society of Trained Masseuses’ magazine article in March 1917 “We make no apology for emphasising the need to take some thought for the morrow and common sense tells us we ought to be preparing to meet it. It was with the object of providing some means of assistance for members who may thus find themselves in difficulties as a result of misfortunes which they cannot prevent that our Members’ Fund was started last March, and we wish we could bring home to those who read these words the fact that its power to help will be just in proportion to the amount which is contributed to it by them”

In December 1925 - The Members Fund gained Charitable Status as a ‘Trust’

Mid War Years 

In 1927 The ‘Eagle Star and British Dominions Insurance Company’ provided insurance for members and the commission was donated to the Members Fund. The number of war veterans needing treatment had declined to a trickle, but a general lack of funds forced hospitals to reduce staff, and doctors gave up their massage assistants. Private practitioners were hard pushed to meet bills and at worst they “were suffering from insufficiency of food.” Sick and elderly members fared badly and in 1935 The MBF committee used part of the £224 available to provide: 

  • “A tricycle for a crippled former member of the Almeric Paget Massage Corps. 
  • A room near her oculist, then a place at the Royal Hospital for Incurables in Putney for an elderly lady, almost blind and with an artificial leg. 
  • A journey to Switzerland for an asthmatic member with drugs purchased for her. 
  • A sum of money for a masseur who found it impossible to keep up a decent appearance on his pension of £120 per year and 12/6d earned from one regular patient.”

In December of that year Christmas cheques were sent to 10 sick or elderly members some of whom had dependents to support. Special gifts were given to commemorate a coronation or other event,

Early fundraising consisted of tea parties, sales of work and donations. Money was collected at memorial services. Members were encouraged to take items / small gifts (toiletries, nylons, sewing essentials etc) to Congress annually and these were distributed to the beneficiaries (This practice ceased in 1939). Local concerts helped raise funds and fundraising continued within the Boards & Branches e.g. dances held

Post War Years

The fund was left legacies, and the royalties of text books were given together with general gifts. Unfortunately we know little of the problems encountered by those who were assisted as records were destroyed after cases were closed due to the confidential nature of the work.

 Until the early 1990s there was always a doctor as a trustee to be able to give medical information and prognosis on less common medical conditions. Before the 1960s it looks as though a hospital almoner was also among trustees. There is still a social worker among our trustees today. Today’s trustees included retired and working physiotherapists from different aspects of the profession and ‘lay trustees’ not associated with the profession..

Income for 1989 was £38,777 from investments, legacies and donations, and £1,533 was raised by a conference. £29,000 was given to 10 new and 24 existing cases mainly in the form of regular monthly allowances, birthday, Christmas and Easter gifts, and help with heating and telephone bills.

 During the post war years into the late 1990s some members were assisted who had very poor pension provision due to being 'married working women', then being widowed or divorced. The average age of the beneficiaries was probably over 60, and very few younger members needed assistance, other than those with a long term illness.

 In the late 1990s the MBF almost ran out of money and the MBF Chair appealed to the CSP Council for funding. It was agreed by Council that £1 per member was donated annually from subscriptions, and this continued for 20 years until 2019. The decision was also made at that time to invest all legacies to form an investment portfolio. This has now built up to provide the annual income of the MBF,  together with donations from individual members, thus making the MBF self sufficient and sustainable for the future.

The 21st Century

In 2000 the average applicants per year was around 10 with around 40 people receiving assistance during any year.  The recession of 2008 increased the applications to over 25, with over 50 receiving ongoing assistance. Today’s assistance is more short term - one off grants, a few months of allowances and payment of CSP subscriptions but we still assist one lady who has a poor pension.

The majority of applicants in 2019 are in their 30s / 40s with very few above 60 years. The most common cause for assistance besides illness, is family breakdown for whatever reason. People live with more debts now, and the current financial climate makes it hard to save, and even harder to cope when the unexpected occurs...

In 2017 The MBF celebrated its Centenary. This significant event for the fund gave the trustees an opportunity to review the future in 'Project 100'. The governance was updated to reflect the requirements of an efficient modern charity, the work of assessing the applications was outsourced to enable improved objective advice and assistance for members, and a preventative programme of work was begun.

The Centenary Fund, a ring fenced pot of money was raised by CSP members during and since the centenary year to provide the new preventative programme – 'Retirement Preparation'  workshops and hopefully 'Financial Education' in the future.

The first governing 'Trust Deed' was issued  in 1925 and has been regularly updated, the latest being effective from 2015 with a “Charity Scheme” (WHO the MBF assists) & a “Charity Schedule” (HOW the MBF is run). More external governance requirements have occurred in the last 10 years than the previous 90!

The MBF has a Board of 12 trustees to oversee the work of the MBF and a volunteer Minutes Secretary. For the first 100 years the trustees did all the work themselves on a voluntary basis, with administrative and financial support from the CSP, and as mentioned above it was only in 2018 that we became fully independent and appointed Auriga Services to work in partnership with us as Administration Partner. The trustees are responsible for all decisions relating to the fund, including applications,  based on recommendations made by Hope4U (our current Administration Partner). We believe that we have entered a new era of quality care for members of the physiotherapy profession who have encountered misfortune or financial hardship, and we aim to support them until they are able to become independent once again. We continue to have some support from the CSP Finance Department.

The MBF adopted a new name in March 2023 and is now known as The Physiotherapy Benevolent Fund (PBF).

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