Two years on: How NHS charities £150 million Covid-19 Appeal has changed healthcare in Bedfordshire and beyond.

Two years after the first UK lockdown was announced – and NHS Charities Together launched its record-breaking fundraiser – Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Charity shares the difference public support has made locally

Two years since Boris Johnson announced the UK’s first Covid-19 lockdown, Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Charity is highlighting the incredible impact of support provided by the British public through NHS Charities Together’s Covid-19 Urgent Appeal. Launched the same day lockdown started, the Appeal ultimately awarded £367,600 to Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Charity to support the health and wellbeing of our staff, patients and volunteers in Luton, Bedfordshire and beyond.

Since the start of the pandemic, Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Charity used funds for a variety of projects including Clinical Psychologist posts for staff, permanent Wellbeing Hubs across our two hospital sites, recognising staffing excellence and projects to support End of Life Care for patients, making an important difference to NHS patients, staff and the local community. The funding has played a key role in engendering a positive healing environment for patients, but also creating an environment that will support staff wellbeing, during a critical time. The projects have and will continue to play a substantial role in addressing staffing needs and creating a resilient workforce as we recover from the pandemic.

Showcasing the impact of the projects so far, the Trust has seen a phenomenal impact with the delivery of key staff wellbeing projects. The Employee Assistance Programme received over 800 contacts from staff for services including phone calls, online chat sessions and emails to support teams. The impact of the counselling offered has been remarkable, with users at Bedford seeing an average improvement rate of 86.4% and at the Luton site, there is an improvement rate of 94.6%. The Blossom Project (End of Life) has resulted in 106 patient visits by the end of 2021, and without the Blossom volunteers, 54% of those patients would have remained alone. The impact of the funding has been incredible, particularly as the initial stages of the pandemic in 2020 wrought unparalleled challenges for the NHS and community alike. The Trust witnessed extraordinary generosity from the community with donations for emergency wellbeing hubs for staff and compassion unlike anything we have experienced previously. Looking to the future, it’s incredibly exciting to continue developing projects and appeals that will embrace the community spirit experienced 2 years ago.

Funding provided by NHS Charities Together has also supported the delivery of Stage 2 Community Partnership Grants across Bedfordshire Luton and Milton Keynes, with a total grant of £445,533:

  • Bedfordshire Rural Communities Charity, ‘U Can Do IT’: This project is aimed at reducing digital exclusion and isolation by supporting isolated individuals with training and where required, provision of services.
  • British Red Cross, Assisted Discharge with Follow Up Support: The project is supporting the delivery of an enhanced discharge service, extending support to Bedfordshire patients.
  • YMCA MK, SHINE Project: The project supports the most vulnerable young people who are facing greater health inequalities as a result of the pandemic through the creation of Complex Needs Manager and creation of a Hospital Navigator Role.
  • South Central Ambulance Service, Enhanced Community First Responders, Out of Hospital Cardiac Arrest and Community Care Home Support: The three projects have and will help to reduce pressures on hospital admissions and provide additional support by rapidly attending emergencies.

NHS Charities Together launched its Covid-19 Urgent Appeal on 23 March 2020, raising over £15 million in the first five days, and going on to raise over £150 million – the highest amount raised by any fundraiser ever – to support those at the frontline of the coronavirus crisis, as well as people most at risk from Covid-19.

Hundreds of thousands of people got behind the campaign, including the incredible Captain Sir Tom Moore, who raised £39 million walking laps of his garden prior to the creation of the Captain Tom Foundation. Thousands of other supporters – including six-year-old Frank Mills and three-year old Daisy Briggs, who both live with spina bifida – made personal sacrifices to raise funds in their own unique ways, from walking and running to sky diving, dancing and baking.

High-profile celebrities got involved too, including NHS Charities Together Charity Champion Jordan Henderson, who coordinated Premier League footballers to fundraise for the NHS via the #PlayersTogether initiative, and Joe Wicks who donated proceeds from his amazing efforts to get the nation exercising at home.

Thanks to this generous support, vital funds were distributed to every NHS Trust and Health Board in the UK via NHS Charities Together’s network of 238 NHS charities. To date the charity has allocated an incredible £143 million – making a vital difference during the most challenging time in NHS history. This includes funding more than 400 projects dedicated to NHS staff, including counselling, helplines, and specialist psychological support, and over 700 community partnership projects to tackle health inequalities and prevent ill health in the community.

Sarah Amexheta, Head of Charity, said: “We are incredibly grateful to NHS Charities Together for their support and funding through the Covid-19 Appeal. The difference the funding has made has been instrumental as our projects, such as the Blossom Project, Clinical Psychologist and a number of staff wellbeing projects have enabled us to enhance the healing environment for patients and offer a wide variety of staff wellbeing solutions.”

Family member of a L&D patient said: My mother recently passed away at L&D Hospital following a severe stroke. My brother and I were touched by the support and time that the Blossom Volunteers gave to Mum in her final days whilst she was receiving end of life care. We would like to thank these volunteers, and of course all the nurses and doctors who care for mum so well. Thank you!’.

Ellie Orton OBE, Chief Executive at NHS Charities Together, said: “The NHS can’t face every challenge alone and we are so grateful for the British public’s support, which enabled us to help the NHS go further at this challenging time. Thanks to this generosity we’ve been able to fund hundreds of incredible projects providing emotional and practical help for staff, volunteers and patients.

“It’s wonderful to see the impact these projects are now having, but the NHS will continue to need our support now and in the long term, as the impact of the pandemic continues to be felt both by staff and the inevitable backlog of patients needing treatment. Our message is that we are here for you all, whatever it takes.”

To find out more about the work of NHS Charities Together visit nhscharitiestogether.co.uk.

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