Better health for life through compassionate communities

Hannah Fontana, Strategy, research and innovation programme manager, explains how the Compassionate Communities initiative will help to tackle some of the complex health problems deepened by the pandemic.

We’re working in partnership with Imperial Health Charity to pioneer a new funding programme that will provide vital support to people in north west London who have been most affected by Covid-19, while working towards keeping people healthier, outside of our hospitals.

The impact of Covid-19 has been most visible in our hospitals over the last year. The extreme pressure on critical care services, combined with rolling news coverage has introduced us to now-familiar images of frontline staff covered by gowns and gloves as they care for patients.

But the reality is that the knock-on effects of the pandemic reach far beyond the hospital walls, deepening many pre-existing health problems and widening health inequalities in our local communities.

Hannah Fontana"The reality is that the knock-on effects of the pandemic reach far beyond the hospital walls, deepening many pre-existing health problems and widening health inequalities in our local communities."

It’s become increasingly clear that, alongside the struggle to save lives in intensive care units and on our wards, we face an equally challenging fight to address food poverty, poor mental health, digital exclusion and other complex issues that prevent the most vulnerable in our communities from leading healthy lives. The pandemic has also brought into focus the widespread inequality in north west London, disproportionately impacting communities that have been at the sharp end of inequalities for decades.

Compassionate Communities is a unique opportunity for us to confront these problems head-on, by working more closely with local organisations that understand the causes and effects of these seismic health issues. As a Trust, we know that we have a greater role than healthcare alone. We are also playing an active role in addressing the many other factors in people’s lives that may prevent them from being healthy. To realise our vision of ‘better health for life’, for our patients, staff and communities, we know that it’s equally important to provide support outside traditional healthcare settings.

With fantastic support from our partners at Imperial Health Charity, we will be awarding a total of £450,000 in grants to community organisations in April – enabling us to support a wide range of projects that aim to tackle at least one of four key health problems:


  • food poverty and obesity

  • mental health and wellbeing

  • digital poverty and exclusion

  • language barriers and misinformation

To help us address these issues, we want to connect with people across north west London who are already leading fantastic initiatives to really understand what our local populations need. That’s why we reached out to more than 80 local groups last year to help us form a ‘community panel’ to support with the design of the Compassionate Communities programme. This focus on collaboration will enable us to make sure this funding reaches those who need it most.

We’re currently encouraging local organisations in north west London to apply for a share of the funding via the charity’s website, by 8 March. In April, we will award grants of various sizes - up to £20,000 - to support a range of community-led projects that will benefit those who consistently experience health inequalities and have been particularly affected during the pandemic.

As well as awarding this funding, we will offer extra advice and support to help these community groups maximise the impact of their work and make their projects more sustainable for the long term.

Working with Imperial Health Charity to reach out further into our local communities, we hope to make a real and lasting impact for thousands of people in north west London who consistently come up against barriers that prevent them leading healthier lives.

Read more information about Compassionate communities with guidance on how to apply for funding.