Charity begins at hospital

Ian Lush, Chief Executive of the Imperial College Healthcare Charity, writes about why hospitals have charities supporting their work, what our charity does, and how you can get involved.

A charity, I hear you say, why does a big NHS Trust like Imperial College Healthcare need a charity? Doesn’t it have enough money from the Government? And what about all those other charities out there supporting health – why do we need any more?

All perfectly reasonable questions, which I will try to answer here and show you how the Imperial College Healthcare Charity works to support the Trust, its patients, families, visitors and staff.

So first of all, the money question – doesn’t the Trust already have the funds it needs from the Government? A quick glance at a newspaper or the TV news over the last few months and you will know the answer to that – there is real pressure on all NHS organisations to find enough money even to cover basic services, and as the Trust’s charity our role is to support things which are over and above the hospitals’ every day running costs.

What does this actually mean? A good example is the grant of £7.2 million we are giving to help with the Trust’s outpatients’ service. Some of this money will go towards much-needed improvements to the environment of the outpatient clinics in the various hospitals, so that waiting times are reduced and the conditions for patients, family members and staff are better. Some of our grant will support streamlining the way in which appointments are made and communicated, making sure that patients receive the information they need in a timely, clear and accessible way.

At the same time we are funding vital work to the Major Trauma Centre at St Mary’s Hospital. This appeal officially closes in March 2016 and so far we’ve raised £750,000 towards new equipment, services and a Youth Violence Intervention Project – an initiative set up to tackle the growing health problems surrounding youth and gang violence in London.

Where does this money come from? Our Charity, though only formed in 2009, actually has some funds dating back nearly 200 years. The Charity looks after these historic funds and also all donations and legacies made by grateful patients and families to the hospitals. We manage these in accordance with the wishes of the donor, funding specific wards or services with grants, and we raise new funds through our appeals.

And this is part of what makes us different from other healthcare charities. Unlike a cancer research charity, for example, we are dedicated solely to supporting Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, whether we are fundraising towards the expansion of children’s intensive care at St Mary’s, giving small grants to patients and families who are suffering financial hardship because of a medical emergency, or displaying some of the 2,000+ works of art that we own to make the hospitals a nicer place to be. Even the grants we give for research fellowships are just for Trust staff, to encourage them to make new discoveries alongside their day jobs.

Ultimately we are always looking for ways to work with the Trust to improve patient experience through better amenities, improved environments, new treatments and services. We want to work with more patients, families, visitors and staff as well, through people supporting our fundraising by undertaking a challenge event (you too can run 10k, abseil down the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother hospital building or ride a bike to Paris!), becoming a volunteer and helping patients and visitors, or simply making a donation to our Charity.

It is an honour to support the vital and life-changing work carried out across the Trust by our NHS colleagues and if you would like to know more about our Charity and to get involved, please look at our website, or follow us on Facebook or Twitter. More information on the ‘More Smiles’ appeal for children’s intensive care is here:


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