NHS Voices blogs

Why all trusts and health boards can benefit from close working with their NHS charity

All trusts and health boards could benefit from working with their own NHS charity - and the benefits go beyond the financial, writes Ellie Orton.
Ellie Orton

9 November 2021

It’s been an incredibly challenging 18 months for us all and what a journey we have been on as a nation and global community. Throughout it all the NHS has been the nation’s backbone, and NHS staff have been its beating heart. Seeing the stoicism of NHS staff, who have carried on providing care whatever it has taken, has been beyond inspiring. The success of the vaccination programme firmly reminds us all of the benefits of our national health service.

We have been on a journey at NHS Charities Together too. The support from the public over the last 18 months has been heartfelt. People wanted to support the NHS to help it cope with this unprecedented moment. As an independent national charity representing all 240 NHS charities associated with hospitals, mental health, ambulance and community health services across the UK, we became the national focal point for that charitable outpouring of support.

Helping the NHS go further

Hundreds of thousands of people got behind the NHS, from clapping on doorsteps to donating to our Million Claps campaign. The incredible Captain Sir Tom Moore raised nearly £40 million for our COVID-19 appeal, and thousands of other supporters made personal sacrifices to raise hundreds of thousands of pounds in their own ways.

We raised an unbelievable £150 million pounds, the vast majority of which has been allocated across the UK through the network of 240 NHS charities. We issued emergency grants to tackle immediate needs on the frontline, followed by grants for community projects to relieve pressure on the NHS, and finally grants to support its long-term recovery.

By engaging with their charity more, there have been knock-on benefits for staff health

During 2020 we funded over 600 projects on the ground, including over 400 projects for staff, ranging from a place to rest during a busy shift, to helplines, peer support projects and counselling. We funded technology projects to enable virtual appointments, bereavement support for families, research into COVID-19 treatments, and specialist equipment. We also invested £7 million into the ambulance service, funding training and recruitment of thousands of community first responders to help save lives. These funds help the NHS go further – funding the extras that can’t otherwise be covered by the core government budget.

For those trusts and health boards already working strategically with their NHS charity there are huge benefits - with charities able to be agile and to respond to immediate needs that trust budgets aren't always able to. And benefits go beyond the financial. One trust CEO recently told me that by engaging with their charity more, there have been knock-on benefits for staff health, with many staff now taking part in a running group to fundraise for their own charity.

Supporting NHS staff

In part due to generous donations, two thirds of staff have now been able to access support from their workplace

We are now facing a long period of recovery as a nation and within the NHS. Our own recent research shows 8 in 10 NHS staff (81 per cent) believe increasing pressures on NHS services are as concerning as the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, with 96 per cent agreeing they will continue for years. Over two thirds of NHS staff have experienced a mental health toll from the pandemic, with many reporting depression, anxiety or even post-traumatic stress. Thankfully however, in part due to generous donations, two thirds of staff (66 per cent) have now been able to access support from their workplace.

A bridge between the NHS and the charitable sector

At NHS Charities Together we will continue to be there in the long term helping the NHS recover from the impact of COVID-19, reducing health inequalities and helping to save lives. We will capitalise on our unique role as a bridge between the NHS and the charitable sector, amplifying the impact of charities for the nation’s health and helping the NHS to go further for patients. We will help nurture and sustain the NHS by providing additional support to the incredible workforce. And we will invest in great ideas to help prevent illness and long-term conditions.

By working together, we can ensure that the NHS goes further for everyone

We know that our collective impact, working together with the NHS charities network and colleagues within the NHS, could be significant. And while there may be fears that the public mood towards the NHS will inevitably change, our own continuing supporter base shows an ongoing bedrock of support for the NHS that remains for the long term, giving us all opportunities to harness this to help the NHS go further for everyone.

So, if you are not yet fully engaged with your own NHS charity, I would urge you to fully recognise their potential and start the conversation today. By working together, we can ensure that the NHS goes further for everyone.

Ellie Orton OBE is chief executive of NHS Charities Together. Follow her on twitter @e_orton