“I’ll never forget what they did for our family”
Burnley Captain Ben Mee visits hospital frontline to see impact of footballer fundraising in action
Just over two years since the beginning of UK’s first Covid-19 lockdown, Burnley Football Club Captain Ben Mee has spent the day meeting staff at Royal Bolton Hospital, where money raised by Premier League footballers for NHS Charities Together is making a huge difference to staff, patients and volunteers.
Launched by Liverpool Captain Jordan Henderson during the early stages of the pandemic, the #PlayersTogether initiative invited professional footballers to support the NHS by donating part of their wage to the NHS Charities Together Covid-19 Urgent Appeal. The initiative was also supported by the Lionesses and the Scottish Women’s team, and raised millions of pounds.
As the national, independent charity caring for the NHS, NHS Charities Together has since distributed funds to every NHS Trust and Health Board in the UK via the network of 238 NHS charities. To date the charity has allocated an incredible £143 million – making a vital difference to NHS staff, patients and communities during the most challenging time in NHS history.
This includes £327,600 allocated to Our Bolton NHS Charity, funding projects across Bolton NHS Foundation Trust including the creation of 17 new staff welfare facilities2, which provide colleagues with easy access to comfortable, relaxing and well-equipped spaces where they can take time to rest and reflect, as well as an outdoor area.
With statistics showing more than two thirds of staff nationwide having reported a mental health condition since the start of the pandemic, with many experiencing depression, anxiety and even post-traumatic stress disorder, mental and emotional support has been paramount across the health service.1 Using funds provided by NHS Charities Together, the Trust rolled out a ‘Caring for Yourself’ wellbeing support programme to equip staff with the skills and techniques needed to look after themselves as they continued to deliver high-quality services and provide safe and compassionate care to patients during the pandemic.
Speaking about the visit, which is the first time he has seen the funds he helped raise in action, Ben said: “I am so grateful to meet the incredible staff at Royal Bolton Hospital and it’s been fantastic to see the positive impact funding is making so far. I know from my own personal experience with my daughter Olive being born prematurely at 24 weeks, that it was the staff at that hospital who got us through. They supported us and reassured us – even at the peak of the pandemic when they were under such immense pressure themselves – and I can’t thank them enough. I’ll never forget what they did for our family.
“It’s clear to see that for staff, the pandemic has been relentless, and they continue to work under high levels of pressure whilst only just beginning to process the trauma they’ve been through. We have to care for them like they care for us and continue to support them for the long term.”
Ellie Orton OBE, Chief Executive of NHS Charities Together, said: “The staff at the Royal Bolton Hospital have been incredible over the past two years, giving patients the utmost care and dedication during an overwhelmingly challenging time.
“We’re here to help the NHS go further by listening to what staff and patients need, and filling gaps where extra support is needed. We are so thankful for Ben’s involvement, and it’s wonderful to be able to show him the difference that fundraising makes to NHS staff and the patients they care for. From speaking with staff we know the impact of the pandemic is still ongoing, and they continue to need us now as much as ever.”
Neal Ashurst is an Operating Department Practitioner in the Theatres department at Royal Bolton Hospital, and is one of the members of staff who has benefitted from the wellbeing support programme. Usually based in theatres, Neal and his colleagues were redeployed to the Critical Care unit at the hospital to support colleagues with the high numbers of seriously unwell COVID patients.
Neal said: “Meeting Ben has been a real morale boost for all of us at the hospital. It’s hard to believe it’s been over two years since the beginning of the pandemic. It has been incredibly tough for us, and like many members of staff, I personally struggled with my mental health during the pandemic.
“I was really keen to make something positive out of a negative situation. The wellbeing support programme helped to support me through some really challenging times. I now use that to help students and those joining the profession who haven’t got the experience of working under extreme stress.”
Sharon Martin, Charity Director of Our Bolton NHS Charity and Director of Strategy, Transformation & Digital at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust said: “The public’s support and generosity has been instrumental to the wellbeing of our staff. We were delighted to welcome Ben so he can see some of the difference charity funding has made.
“Last week, we marked two years on since the beginning of the first pandemic – which felt like a huge milestone to our staff, who have worked so tirelessly throughout, and we are incredibly proud of their hard work and dedication to care for all our patients safely. We are committed to providing the wellbeing support staff need to recover from the long-term impact, and beyond.”
To find out more about the work of NHS Charities Together visit nhscharitiestogether.co.uk.