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Our History

Sir Thomas and Lady Duncan established two polio hospitals, the first in Silverstream and the second in Whanganui using the Kenny Method. After the Duncan Hospitals closed in the 70s the trust kept supporting Polio Survivors through Polio NZ Inc and also funded considerable research on neuromuscular conditions. The Mr and Mrs T.A Duncan Hospital Trust has in recent years become  the Sir Thomas and Lady Duncan Trust.

The Duncan Foundation was founded by Joe Duncan, great grandson of Sir Thomas and Lady Duncan and current trust member. Joe had realised there was a real gap in the public health system for people living long term with neuromuscular and neurological conditions. The symptoms of polio had returned to haunt polio survivors, now mostly entering older age , the last polio epidemic being in 1962. However there are many other neuromuscular and neurological conditions which occur now and will continue into the foreseeable future. It is estimated that there are 1200 new cases of Parkinson’s Disease alone diagnosed every year in New Zealand.

Joe saw the potential in a service to provide real support to people, living with a range of neurological conditions, to live life to their full potential. The Duncan Foundation would establish clinics, in partnership with existing neuro physiotherapists to provide assessment of their conditions, make referrals where necessary, develop a rehabilitation plan and support their self-management where needed and asked. The Duncan foundation will work with DHBs to integrate our services with the public health system filling an under-resourced sector at the present and at the same time encourage the Government to realise the importance of resourcing this sector better. Joe contacted Julie Rope, one of NZ’s leading neuro-

physiotherapists, of Rope Neuro Rehab in Mt Eden, persuading her to become the Duncan Foundation Clinical Director and start working with polio clients suffering from the late effects of polio. Julie has developed the clinical standards and resources for the Duncan Foundation. Rope Neuro is now providing services for people living with dystonia, Friedreich’s ataxia late effects of polio, recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and spinocerebellar ataxia.

Jessie Snowden from On the Go Physio in Christchurch joined the team and delivers Duncan Foundation assessments and support to polio survivors and those recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s in the South Island.

Amelia Petherick is a physiotherapist living in Blenhiem and has joined the Duncan Foundation as our clinician dealing with the late effects of Polio in the top of the South.

QE Health has a long tradition of benefiting polio survivors at their residential courses. The Duncan Foundation supported QE Health to develop and deliver a 5-day Post-Polio Syndrome course to aid Clients with post-polio syndrome. QE also offers Duncan foundation Polio assessments and Orthotic assessments.

The Duncan Foundation has teamed up with the New Zealand Artificial Limb Service (NZALS) to deliver a Wellington Duncan Foundation service for people living with the late effects of polio.

Jane Fairbairn, a neuro physiotherapist in Wellington, delivers our LSVT programme for people recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s

Gordon Jackman, program Manager for Polio NZ at the time, joined the development team at its inception, as Polio NZ had similar aims. Gordon first went to the Duncan Hospital in Whanganui when he was two years old and credits Bill Bell and the Duncan Hospital with his ability to walk today. He was appointed CEO of the Duncan foundation in November 2017 and moved onto new challenges in 2021 but still supports the current CEO.

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