From fundraising to the frontline – fast

by Ellie Orton

01 May 2020

With more than £85m raised as part of the national Covid-19 urgent appeal, the aim has been to get funds out to NHS charities as quickly as possible

I know it is a cliché, but things move fast and never more so than in relation to the coronavirus and the impact it is having on our healthcare system.

When we launched our Covid-19 Urgent Appeal on 23 March, the world was in a very different place and so were we at NHS Charities Together (previously known as the Association of NHS Charities). Fast forward to now and our past selves would barely recognise the changes that have taken place, not least in terms of the phenomenal response to our fundraising appeal – £85m raised and counting.

What that has allowed us to do as a membership body is get those funds out quickly and effectively to our members. At the same time, we have rapidly expanded our membership, from around 140 NHS charities to over 200, bringing in charities from Northern Ireland for the very first time.

All have now either received an initial grant of £35,000 or are about to, and we are in the midst of sending out a second wave. By the end of this week, £20m will have been distributed. The second wave of grants have been calculated on the head count of NHS staff covered by each of the member charities, so we could make sure NHS charities were getting a fair share of the initial funds to provide immediate support.

The next wave will be distributed on a needs basis, and we are working with our members to put in place a streamlined application process for that.

NHS charities provide support over and above that which is funded by the NHS, working closely with trusts to meet the specific needs they have.

The first two grant rounds were focused on immediate support for NHS staff, volunteers and patients dealing with the crisis and has already made a real difference on the ground.

NHS charities have provided nutritious meals, ready meals and welfare packs containing drinks and snacks to hospital staff; supplied kettles, microwaves, fridges and radios for people working longer shifts; and given ipads so patients and staff can stay in contact with loved ones.

The charities have helped set up wobble rooms, where staff can take some much-deserved time out when they need to. And they’ve installed wellbeing pods, where tired doctors and nurses can take a power nap during long shifts. Others are funding ‘Listening ear’ programmes, providing someone for NHS workers to talk to for emotional support.

As the crisis develops, the money will focus more on working in partnership with social care and community organisations to help patients recover after leaving hospital, and in the longer term on putting in place programmes to help staff and their families deal with the aftermath of the crisis and reduce its long-term impact on their health and wellbeing.

In terms of reporting, our watchwords are thoughtful and useful. We are striking a balance between the need to get support in place urgently and ensuring the money donated is being used effectively. We have an existing reporting system in place and we are working closely with members to keep it as streamlined as possible. That means removing anything this isn’t useful and reducing any needless admin while maintaining accountability.

The generosity of the public has been astounding. So we and our members are doing everything we can to turn the money they have donated into positive, useful support within the NHS.

You might also be interested in: 
HFMA Bitesize CPD webinar: NHS Charities, 07 May 2020 at 13:30

HFMA briefing: Spending NHS charitable funds