Covid-19 Urgent Appeal Q&As

1. What is the Covid-19 Urgent Appeal? 

The Covid-19 Appeal was launched by NHS Charities Together in March to acknowledge and support NHS staff, volunteers and patients impacted by Covid-19 across the country. The campaign was put together in liaison with health bodies, NHS Charities Together member charities and national giving platforms. 

The money raised is funding grants to help NHS charities support NHS staff, volunteers and patients in ways above and beyond what NHS funding can ordinarily provide, from meeting immediate and urgent needs to supporting the long term recovery from the impact of the crisis. Thanks to the amazing efforts of our fundraisers and the generosity of the public, we have raised over £140m so far.

2. How is the money you have raised being spent? 

Back in March, when we launched our urgent Covid-19 appeal, we had no idea how much it would capture the support of the UK public. Thanks to you, we have raised over £140 million to support NHS workers, volunteers and patients at the centre of this crisis.

We got to work immediately, getting funds out to NHS charities across the country, distributing £30m quickly to meet urgent needs on the ground – providing somewhere comfortable so staff and volunteers could take a break; electronic-tablets so patients, staff and volunteers could stay in contact with loved ones; bereavement support for families who lost loved ones; and counselling for staff to protect their mental health and help them process what they were dealing with.

Since then we have allocated another £68m to provide support in three specific areas and put £12m aside in case of a second Covid wave. The first of those areas is focused on helping vital partnerships outside hospitals, such as hospices, community healthcare and social care, so patients returning home have access to the care they need to recover.

We have also been working with our members to identify where additional support is most urgently needed by NHS staff, volunteers and patients in their area, with a particular focus on support for people who are being disproportionately affected by the Covid crisis, such as patients and staff from the BAME communities and high-risk groups like those living with disabilities.

As the recent report by Public Health England made starkly clear, people from BAME backgrounds are being particularly hard hit by Covid-19.  NHS England figures in June showed that hospital deaths per 100,000 among British people of a black Caribbean background were three times the equivalent number among the white British population. NHS staff and volunteers of colour are at greater risk than their colleagues and we are working with our members to identify how we can get additional support to them to counter that.  

We are also just beginning to see the impact of this crisis on the mental health and wellbeing of NHS staff and volunteers. Their resilience throughout the crisis has been remarkable, but what they have had to deal with on behalf of all of us will leave a mark.   

In a poll conducted in April, half of healthcare workers said that their mental health had dropped since the virus began taking its toll. 71% of younger health professionals, who are likely to be inexperienced and early in their careers, said their mental health had deteriorated.  

In another survey of 3,500 nurses, commissioned by Nursing Times, almost all nursing staff are feeling more stressed and anxious than usual: 87% of respondents rated themselves as either “a lot” or “a little” more stressed at work than usual, while 90% said they were “a lot” or “a little” more anxious than before the outbreak. Over 50% described themselves as “a lot” more anxious or stressed than usual.  

As a result, we are putting a real focus on ways NHS charities can help staff to improve their mental health and wellbeing, and we are already seeing tangible results with the creation of wellbeing rooms within hospitals, places where staff can get away from the stresses of the job and properly switch off.  Our members are also examining how they can provide longer term support through investing in helplines, ensuring there are mental health first aiders available to as many staff as possible and increasing access to talking therapies and longer-term support.  We cannot allow the mental health of NHS staff and volunteers, the people who have been there for us throughout the crisis, to be a long-term casualty. 

Finally, we are also directing funding to help NHS staff, volunteers and services recover from the long term impact of the crisis once it has abated, so we can do what we can to reduce the long-term impact on them and the people they care about. 

3. What are you doing in response to the growing Covid second wave? 

Back in the spring, we put aside £12m from the money we raised to use in case of a second wave, hoping we wouldn’t need to call on it. Sadly, with the new lockdown and pressure rising on NHS staff and volunteers, we need it and are getting it out to NHS charities right now. NHS staff and volunteers are tired and still dealing with the impact of the first wave. They are just as anxious about what is coming as we all are, but they’re facing the twin challenge of caring for people with Covid while keeping the rest of us safe and well.

We cannot afford for their mental health and wellbeing to be a casualty, so we are working closely with NHS charities to get support to NHS staff and volunteers where they need it most right now.

NHS staff and volunteers were there for us during the first wave. They are there for us again as the second wave intensifies, so this is our chance to give something back and be there for them again.

4. What is NHS Charities Together? 

NHS Charities Together is the umbrella organisation for the country’s NHS charities and is the official national charity partner of the NHS with 241 NHS Charity members. NHS charities are the legal way the NHS receives, holds and spends charitable funds and are dedicated to supporting the NHS. They exist for the benefit of current and future NHS patients. NHS Charities Together is the national membership organisation that individual charities join.

NHS Charities Together supports and champions its members and is the ‘trading name’ or ‘known as name’ of the Association of NHS Charities. Founded in 2000, the Association began as an informal group of the largest NHS Charities which came together to provide mutual support. In 2008 in the Association become a registered charity and invited all NHS Charities to share the benefits of membership. We became an incorporate charity in 2019. 

5. What do NHS Charities do? 

NHS Charities give over £1 million every day for the NHS so that people can stay well for longer and get better faster. Most of them focus on helping our health services to do more. From supporting research and development, to brightening up hospital environments, to donating state-of-the-art technologies and equipment, the charities raise funds and mobilise volunteers, touching lives and making a huge difference to millions of people when they are at their most vulnerable. Other NHS charities support mental health trusts, community health trusts and ambulance trusts.  

NHS Charities have a legal or formal agreement with their NHS Trust and therefore have a particular focus whereby they specifically fund activity that supports NHS patients. They might work with a particular hospital or NHS service or organisations that the NHS relies on to help care for its patients – either way you know your donations are going to help the NHS patients. 

6. Is there more detail on how you are distributing funds to your member NHS Charities? 

NHS Charities are the legal way in which each NHS Trust or Health Board can raise, manage and distribute charitable funds. Grant awards will be made to NHS Charities to enable them to provide direct financial support into their NHS Trust/Health Board Hospitals and services. Grants are being disbursed through distributions to NHS Charities in the following ways: 

  • COVID-19 Urgent response grants 
  • Community Health and Social Care Partnership Grants
  • Recovery Grants 

An initial substantial grant was made equally to each NHS Charity and the next round of grants have been made to NHS Charities based on the number of NHS employees (head count) within each corresponding Trust/ Health Board.  This means that the grant amounts are distributed in a fair and equitable way across larger and smaller Trusts/Health Boards. 

NHS Charities Together has distributed an initial grant of £35k to all of its members. That membership has increased from 140 charities when the appeal launched on 23rd March to 241 now, and each new member has been sent that initial grant. 

NHS Charities Together has also sent out a second round of grants, this time based on £7 per staff member in the NHS trust or trusts each of its member charities supports. An additional grant of £50k per member charity has also been granted, to support those disproportionally affected by Covid, such as BAME staff and communities or those with disabilities. As a result, we distributed £30m across all our member charities in that initial stage of support and another £80m is currently available to them through our Community Health and Social Care Partnership, Recovery grants programmes and urgent second wave funding.

7. How long should it take for charities to receive funds raised? 

Fundraising pledges made through online donation platforms (Virgin Money Giving, Just Giving etc) can take up to a week or more to appear as cleared funds for the appeal.  These donations are then brought across to NHS Charities Together COVID-19 appeal bank account.  Grants are then authorised regularly, which triggers a payment of grant funds into each NHS member charity bank account.  This deposit transfer takes 2 working days. The NHS charity is then able to use these funds to best support their Trust’s/Health Board’s response to COVID-19. 

8. Are these charities just propping up the NHS? 

No, but they do help the NHS do much more than they otherwise could. People have been giving money to health services since well before the NHS was created. They help the health service provide treatments and services they would not otherwise be able to fund. These help improve the wellbeing of patients and save lives. They also support NHS staff and volunteers. 

9. Shouldn’t these funds be used to equip NHS staff and volunteers with the medical equipment they need to do their job, such as ventilators and PPE? 

The money raised through the appeal is currently focused on funding grants to help NHS charities support the health and emotional wellbeing of NHS staff, volunteer and patients in ways above and beyond that which NHS funding can usually provide. Elements such as PPE or ventilators are part of the core operation of the NHS and are ordinarily funded by government.  

Each NHS charity is there to support their NHS trust or health board and to respond to what they and their staff, volunteers and patients need on an ongoing basis. As this crisis develops, there is no doubt those needs will change and NHS charities will continue to respond to that and try to meet those needs. Currently, the focus of our member charities is on the immediate and long term needs of staff, volunteers and patients outside of core care and treatment, including setting up comfortable places where they can take a much-needed rest, giving them nutritious meals and drinks, offering mental health support, and helping staff and the patients themselves to stay in touch with their loved ones. 

10. How much of the money raised gets to the people on the ground? 

NHS Charities Together is a small charity and we have put in place the infrastructure and resource we need to manage funding of this scale. Our focus for the appeal is on raising funds and getting them to our member charities as effectively and efficiently as possible, so they can then be used to support NHS trusts, their staff, volunteers and patients. We invest the time and resource we need to help us do that and monitor that investment. You can find out more about the impact NHS charities have here

11. Can I give money directly to the NHS? 

NHS charities are the legal way the NHS receives, holds and spends charitable funds and are dedicated to supporting the NHS. They exist for the benefit of current and future NHS patients. 

So, the most effective way to financially support the NHS, its staff, volunteers and patients at the moment is through the NHS charities who already provide that support. You can donate via the appeal or you can give a donation directly to the NHS charity in your local area