Two years on: How NHS Charities Together’s £150 million Covid-19 Appeal has changed UK healthcare

On 23rd March 2022
Categories: 2022

It’s exactly two years since Boris Johnson announced the UK’s first Covid-19 lockdown, and NHS Charities Together simultaneously launched its record breaking Covid-19 Urgent Appeal. Working with the network of 238 NHS charities, since then we have allocated an incredible £143 million across the UK – making a vital difference to NHS staff, patients and communities during the most challenging time in NHS history.

We launched our 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 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 the network of 238 NHS charities. Grants initially met urgent needs on the ground, then supported community projects tackling issues like isolation and mental health problems amplified by Covid. Later grants were made available to support the long-term recovery of the NHS, with over 400 projects dedicated to NHS staff mental health – including helplines, counselling, and dedicated support for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Other projects provided bereavement support for families, kept isolated patients connected with their loved ones using technology, carried out research into Long Covid and provided funding for thousands of emergency response volunteers. In addition, over 700 community partnership projects were created to tackle health inequalities and prevent ill health in local communities, while minimising pressure on the health service as it seeks to recover from the pandemic.

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.”


  • Staff mental health

NHS Charities Together awarded £194,800 to support the wellbeing of staff at University Hospitals Plymouth. The money will fund mental health training, new Wellbeing Champions, and dedicated psychologist support.

Jayne Middleman, Learning and Organisational Development Lead at University Hospitals Plymouth, said: “Our occupational health and wellbeing service was at full capacity, and we knew putting resource into staff mental health and wellbeing was really important. We will be rolling out mental health first aid training, delivered by dedicated trainers, and I think it’s going to have a really huge impact. We’re hopeful it will give our staff the support they need psychologically to come into and carry on with work.”

“If people know they’re coming into work and they’re supported it makes a huge difference to them, and it helps patients too. There is a very real correlation between high staff morale and staff having that support, and them being able to deliver high quality care. It’s cheesy but I always say happy staff make happy patients. They can do their job better and that means better health for their patients – and that makes a difference to everyone.”

  • Fans Fighting Cancer (Fans FC) 

NHS Charities Together awarded £160,002 to Sheffield Hospitals Charity, who worked with South Yorkshire’s Community Foundation to distribute grants to community organisations like Sheffield United Community Foundation, to tackle the reduction in the number of people coming forward for cancer screening, and supporting people diagnosed with, affected by, or to help prevent cancer with free mental health and physical activity support.

Katie Glossop, Senior Manager at Sheffield United Community Foundation, said: “COVID-19 has resulted in people facing longer waits for a cancer diagnosis. Some treatments were delivered in different ways or have been interrupted or even stopped on the grounds of clinical safety. This affected people’s physical, mental and social wellbeing significantly. Thanks to funding from NHS Charities Together, we have expanded our Fans FC programme, which is also funded by the Premier League, Professional Footballers Association and Weston Park Cancer Charity, to assist in the prevention and early diagnosis of cancer by raising awareness in the community, sharing preventative measures, and working with local organisations to promote different methods of support available.”

“We’re also supporting those discharged from hospital and those affected by COVID-19 to engage in safe exercise. This concentrates on improving the physical, social and mental health of participants, and encouraging them to adopt a healthier lifestyle to reduce the likelihood of a repeat hospital admission and additional pressure on NHS services.”

  • Long Covid research

An £875k grant was awarded to NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Endowments for research into Long Covid, and to provide peer support for the Trust’s 50,000 staff.

Anne MacPherson, Director of Human Resources and Organisational Development at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, said: “We are incredibly grateful to NHS Charities Together for funding these important projects at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Endowments. The money will allow us to provide a tailored rehabilitation programme to monitor staff affected by long covid and also provide vital occupational therapy, physiotherapy, psychology and occupational health support to our incredible workforce. Thanks to this grant we can provide vital mental health support to around 50,000 staff, many of whom have been significantly affected by the impact of working during the pandemic.”

Support our work

With the impact of Covid-19 on the NHS workforce and services that are busier than ever, NHS Charities Together needs to continue to be there for the people of the NHS. With your ongoing help, we can continue working with alongside NHS charities across the UK to provide much needed support for staff including counselling, helplines, and specialist psychological support.

Together, we can help the NHS go further.

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