A Short History of UKCS


The setting up of a UK branch of the International Continence Society was first discussed amongst the UK delegates at the 1993 ICS meeting in Rome at the instigation of Paul Abrahms. There was a feeling that as the size of the International meeting was growing, the costs were rising, the ability to bring junior staff was lessening and the chances of getting work presented was getting smaller there may be a reason for having a UK branch of the society. As a first step it was agreed that there would be an initial meeting the following year to present some work and to discuss this further.

That first meeting took place in Bristol in Spring of 94 under Paul’s chairmanship. It was low key – some 50 delegates were present and there were one and a half days of science. At the general meeting it was agreed that there was a place for a UK branch of the ICS with the following principles in mind.

1. It should be a low cost meeting so that Consultants could bring as many junior staff, allied medical staff and research staff as possible. This should involve having the meeting if possible in the Easter holidays in a University setting and using University accommodation if possible.

2. The meeting would encourage presentations by junior staff and so as to avoid the problem of work being submitted to both ICS and ICS(UK) as the new society was called, it would be happy to accept work in progress.

The new society would be multidisciplinary as was the ICS.

Gordon Hosker was appointed Secretary and Treasurer, and a nominal annual fee for membership was agreed.

As this was a very low-key meeting it was felt at that time that no Office bearers or constitution was required.

The early years

The meeting progressed along these lines for the next few years (the host centres and chairmen are listed elsewhere on this website), and increasingly became more popular and busier leading to the inevitable problem of finding sites big enough to host the meeting.

A sea change came about in 2000 when the meeting was held in Belfast, with the conference in the Waterside Hall, the accommodation in city centre hotels, and the annual dinner (by then an established part of the meeting) in the City Hall. The attendance then was reaching 200. It was an excellent meeting but a significant move away from the original ‘low cost’ aims.
Prior to that meeting Gordon had announced his intention to stand down after the Belfast meeting having done seven years in the job. He asked for expressions of interest, and after receiving two (with one then standing down!), I was elected to take over as secretary/treasurer, which I did at the 2001 meeting in Manchester.

The membership of the society continued to rise and the workload of the secretary/treasurer post continued to increase and so with the backing of the membership at the 2003 AGM we appointed a part time secretary (Myra Glass).

The attendance at the annual meetings continued to rise and at the 2004 meeting in Bournemouth the attendance topped 400 for the first time. By this time the meeting was combining basic research along with state of the art lectures, and whilst having moved away from the ‘low cost’ beginnings still heavily encouraged junior staff involvement.

The Society changes…

Around this time it was becoming increasingly clear that our name was going to have to change. Our membership was confused as to which society they were in – many of them thinking that being part of ICS(UK) meant that they were members of ICS. Many thought that the two societies were one and the same thing. At the ICS(UK)head office! (Myra’s office in the SGH) we were fielding a lot of calls and correspondence from people actually looking for ICS. Furthermore as ICS was a charity and VAT registered and we were not, we didn’t want the Government becoming confused.
I put my case to the 2005 AGM in Glasgow and it was overwhelmingly agreed that a name change was appropriate. The UK Continence Society (UKCS) therefore was officially adopted as the title of the society and would be used as the sole title from the 2007 meeting onwards.

…and expands

Other changes were taking place. Due to the huge sponsorship available from Industry at that time, each annual meeting was making a significant profit with 50% of that profit going to UKCS, and thus a healthy bank balance was built up.

In 2004 it was agreed that a working group (led by Doug Tincello) would look at the options of how best to utilise this money, and report to the AGM in 2005.

At that report it was agreed that the UKCS would offer grants of up to £5000 to members for original research, and offer bursaries of £100 to research and/or paramedical staff to help with attendance at the annual meeting. This ‘small grants group’ was set up under the chairmanship of Steve Radley and has been running successfully since then.

In 2007 Phillip Toozs-Hobson who was the BSUG committee member responsible for urodynamics brought to the society the problems of accreditation for urodynamics and discussions with UKCS, BAUS and BSUG are ongoing as to how accreditation should be taken forward. One of the suggestions was that UKCS as the only multi-disciplinary group might be the best placed to oversee this. It is realised that a change in structure of the society may be required to achieve this and other similar functions, because at the time of writing, there are as yet no elected office bearers other than the secretary and treasurer and small grants group chairman.

In 2007 a proposal was brought to the AGM by a member who was a trustee of the Continence Foundation that the UKCS was merged with the CF. A lot of views were expressed for and against this motion and an agreement reached that a working party be set up to discuss this and report back to the 2008 AGM. One meeting of the group took place in 2007, but before the discussions could be taken forward to the AGM in 2008, the CF went into liquidation.

The Future

I decided that seven years (as Gordon had done) was a long enough tenure as Secretary/Treasurer of the Society and after announcing my retrial from post in 2007 duly stood down at the 2008 AGM. After much debate and discussion it was agreed that the job should be split into two posts and Philip Toozs-Hobson was duly elected Secretary and Ralph Webb as Treasurer proving what we have always suspected that it takes 2 Englishmen to replace one Scotsman!

Under Phil and Ralph’s leadership the society continues to prosper and the annual meeting is firmly in place as a very important date on the Continence Calendar. Just as many changes have already taken place many more lie ahead and Phil and Ralph are the right people to lead our Society forward

Ian Ramsay

March 2010