Three years on: How NHS charities £160 million Covid-19 Appeal has changed healthcare across the UK

On 27th March 2023
Categories: 2023

Three years since the UK’s first Covid-19 lockdown (26 March 2020), we are highlighting the incredible impact of support provided by the British public through our record-breaking Covid-19 Urgent Appeal. Announced with lockdown, the Appeal went on to raise an incredible £160 million to support those at the frontline of the coronavirus crisis, as well as people most at risk from Covid-19, and help the NHS at the most difficult time in its history.

Launched in March 2020, the campaign saw hundreds of thousands of people show their support for the NHS, including the incredible Captain Sir Tom Moore, who raised £39 million for NHS Charities Together walking laps of his garden, prior to the creation of the separate 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 our 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 our network of over 230 local NHS charities. To date we have allocated over £146 million – making a vital difference to NHS staff, patients and communities, with more funds still being distributed. This includes funding for thousands of projects dedicated to NHS staff mental health, including counselling, helplines, and specialist psychological support, and over 325 community partnership projects to tackle health inequalities and prevent ill health in our communities.

Ellie Orton OBE, Chief Executive at NHS Charities Together, said:

“Thanks to the public’s incredible generosity during the pandemic we have been able to fund thousands of projects across the UK helping the workforce, patients and communities. But three years on things have not got any easier for our health service and the support NHS charities provide is more important than ever. With the public’s help, together we are working hard to help the NHS go further at what remains an incredibly challenging time – and we’re grateful for everyone who helps make that possible.”

Trauma Support for NHS Staff

Penny Stanford

Amongst the thousands of incredible projects funded, we awarded £363,000 to Nottingham Hospitals Charity to fund a two-year psychological support project for staff impacted by the pandemic and beyond. This provided funding for two clinical psychologists and a mental health trainer, and the development of post-trauma initiatives for all staff, particularly in areas such as the emergency department, critical care and neonatal, where traumatic incidents are high. As part of this, Trauma Response Management (TRiM), a new accredited model of peer support and counselling, was introduced.

Penny Stanford is a Trainee Advanced Nurse Practitioner on the Paediatric Emergency Department at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust (NUH). Penny helped patients on the Covid-19 Wards during the pandemic and was as one of many members of NUH staff put forward to access TRiM.

Penny said:

“There was a lot of fear in the first four months of the pandemic, and as nurses many of us had to adapt and learn a whole new skillset. Although I was predominantly on the paediatric Covid ward, I was put on shift on the adult care unit a few times and it was terrifying.

“One time I went to adult ICU to help, and I felt massively out of my depth. There was a patient who died that night who I’ll never forget. I held his hand and supported him through it – but that kind of trauma didn’t start and end with the pandemic. Over the last 12 months I have witnessed the deaths of three children that were incredibly traumatic. Children’s nurses don’t see deaths very often, so when we do it’s horrific and unexpected.

“The TRiM practitioners are amazing at picking up non-verbal cues, encouraging us to talk to ensure we’re dealing with our trauma healthily. We say we’re fine and just carry on, but sometimes saying ‘I’m fine’ isn’t enough. We need to be comfortable talking about what we’ve been through.”

Jackie and her husband

Covid-19 Bereavement Counselling

Another project that benefitted from £60,000 funding is King’s College Hospital Charity’s Bereavement Service, delivered in partnership with St Christopher’s, which offered free telephone and face-to face support for the relatives, partners and friends of patients who died at these hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jackie Bryan was one of the people who benefitted from the service. She said:

“After my husband’s funeral we were still in lockdown and I became very low. I was pulling my hair out, to be honest with you. I lost all my confidence and when he passed away I felt like I lost a huge part of myself. I found myself not coping, but it was a great help when the counsellor rang me each week to discuss how I was getting on.

“Mental health is alien to my generation, and we just tend to soldier through whether we are coping or not. But my advice would be don’t hold it in, you have to find someone you can talk to. I felt like people were frightened of upsetting me because they didn’t know what to say, but this experience has enabled me to speak more openly about my grief. You feel like you’re the only person who feels the way you do but you will soon realise there are so many other people who have been through the same thing and understand. You are not alone.

“Anyone who is going through grief please don’t shelter yourself away. If you can get counselling and find a group, it will really make a difference.”

Carolyn Levett, Supervisor to St Christopher’s Bereavement Support Volunteers, said:

“Many clients presented with high anxiety and intense loneliness around their grief and were in desperate need of support. Many struggled with the rules and restrictions placed on them through lockdown and used their sessions to talk about their thoughts and feelings surrounding this. All these issues contributed to the complexity of the grief they were experiencing. It was a great privilege to be able to offer my time to such a worthy cause as this.”

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