Following our announcement that the Covid-19 Appeal has raised an astounding £130 million, Ellie Orton, Chief Executive of NHS Charities Together, explains how the donations are getting to NHS charities so they can support staff, volunteers and patients.

Last week we hit an unbelievable milestone – £130 million raised for our appeal. I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has donated and also explain a bit more about how we are getting money to NHS charities so they can support NHS staff, volunteers and patients affected by the Covid crisis.

Administering a fund of this size is a huge responsibility and rightly so. This isn’t our money and needs to be carefully allocated so it works as hard as it can for our cause. We have an obligation to make sure we get the balance right, so funds get to where they are needed quickly and efficiently and are used to make as big a positive impact as possible. Here’s a very personal example of how the money has already made a difference and you’ll find lots more on our site and social channels.

Our focus at the beginning of the appeal was to support NHS charities so they could respond to the urgent needs of NHS staff, volunteers and patients dealing with the Covid crisis. We made £35,000 available immediately to all our member charities. That membership has increased from 140 charities when the appeal launched on 23rd March to 237 now, and each new member has been sent that initial grant. We also sent out a second wave of grants, this time based on £7 per staff member in the NHS trust or trusts each of its member charities supports. Together, these two grant rounds distributed £20m to NHS charities. I’m proud that we have been able to make sure funds have been available to meet all the urgent and immediate needs flagged by our member charities.

Another £10m is available to NHS charities right now and we have put aside £10m for urgent use in case there is a second wave. The virus is having a profound impact on every aspect of our communities and NHS charities are widening the scope of the support they are providing, to help vital partnerships outside hospitals, such as hospices, community healthcare and social care, making sure patients returning home have access to the care they need to recover.  

The current grant round is a non-competitive application process for any additional support our members feel is most urgently needed by NHS staff, volunteers and patients in their area, with a particular focus on support for people who are disproportionately affected by the Covid crisis, such as patients and staff from the BAME communities and other groups including those living with disabilities. Grants are being made at the moment and applications for this funding are open until the end of July.

In the longer term the money you have donated will also fund programmes to help staff and families recover fully once the crisis has abated, reducing the long-term impact on them and the people they care about.

We are in uncharted territory with this crisis and we don’t know how long it will go on for or what direction it will take. As a charity, it is our duty to make sure the funds donated to us are used as effectively as possible and are supporting staff, volunteers and patients to deal with the crisis and have the help they need to recover from it in the longer term.

Our appeal has been hugely successful thanks to the amazing generosity of the public and our supporters. It has exceeded our expectations and we have worked hard to put in place the infrastructure we need to make sure those funds are used effectively so they make the biggest difference possible for NHS staff, volunteers and patients. Our members award over £350 million every year in grants so we are in the privileged position of being able to draw on their substantial grant making and grant awarding experience.

We have been working with an expert academic partner since May as part of the process for creating a grant strategy. created  grants strategy. As part of that strategy, we have established an NHS CT COVID-19 Grant Awarding Panel, as a subgroup of the Trustee Board of NHS Charities Together. The purpose of this subgroup is to administer and coordinate the distribution of funds from the NHS Charities Together Covid-19 Appeal. The panel is convening regularly, reviewing all the bids we receive and making grant awards accordingly.

We are also in the process of appointing a learning partner to work with our members and ensure the funding they receive is used as effectively as possible and have put in a place a robust reporting framework for grant recipients to report back on the impact the funding is making.

£130 million is a significant amount of money and we are working hard to get the balance right in terms of speed of distribution and effectiveness. As a supporter, you should expect nothing less and we will keep you updated regularly on how we are doing.