Nearly a year to the day since lockdown began, we can proudly reveal that we’ve invested more than £7m in life-changing initiatives to support the NHS during the pandemic.
Thanks in large part to the generous response to our Covid Appeal, we’ve been able to fund a wide range of Covid initiatives, providing practical and emotional support to frontline staff, as well as helping patients in hospital.
In total, we have spent more than £4.5m on projects to promote staff wellbeing to help relieve the extreme emotional and psychological stress that staff have endured over the past year.
In the early days of the pandemic, our initial funding was used to buy basic food and hygiene supplies for staff who were too busy or wearing too much PPE to be able to take proper breaks. Some teams used the money to create temporary rest areas so that exhausted staff had somewhere calm to unwind, while other staff members benefitted from electronic bikes and secure cycle storage meaning they could pedal to work instead of using public transport.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “Our NHS staff have been on the frontline of this pandemic, and on behalf of all Londoners I want to thank them for going above and beyond during what has been a deeply difficult time.
“We owe our doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers a debt of gratitude, and I’m really pleased that Londoners and our businesses have come together to show their appreciation by supporting the Barts Charity. I would like to wholeheartedly thank the staff at Barts Health for their hard work and dedication, and Londoners for their generosity.”
Longer-term, a significant bulk of the charity’s funding is being used to create permanent “wellbeing hubs” in the hospitals so that staff have somewhere to relax and decompress after a stressful shift. These wellbeing hubs are at various stages of development, but all should be completed and open for staff to enjoy by the summer. Alongside these physical changes to buildings, many teams have also taken part in group relaxation activities, such as craft sessions, art workshops, and silent discos.
Given the huge emotional toll of caring for Covid patients, we have helped to set up a brand-new psychological support service so that staff can more easily access mental health support as and when they need it. Thanks to a large donation from London business Capula Investment Management, six psychologists are now employed in the hospitals to help staff deal with the current pressures, and signpost individuals onto specialist mental health services as and when appropriate.
Carla Croft is the consultant clinical psychologist brought in to establish the service. She hopes that by basing the service within the hospitals themselves, more staff will be encouraged to come forward.
“We know that healthcare workers are one of those groups who struggle to ask for help. It is my true belief that the most impactful thing we can do to ensure high quality patient care is to care for the needs of our NHS people who are working tirelessly to look after patients.”
For local families, ipads provided to Covid patients stuck in hospital have made a huge personal difference. Some patients have met new family members for the first time over video call, while others have been able to celebrate their birthdays from their hospital bed. For many, the ipads have been the only way relatives have been able to say goodbye to loved ones.
Scarlett Gillespie was part of the Patient and Family Liaison Team at Royal London Hospital. She says:
“Being able to facilitate video calls with family and friends of patients during the second wave of the pandemic has been a real privilege. I have had the opportunity to visit many patients, in hospital for various reasons and lengths of stay. Some patients have had long stays on the Intensive care unit and reconnecting them with their families after being apart, with no contact for over 5 weeks in some instances, was really special. I’ve also helped make calls where patients are meeting new arrivals – one patient met their nephew for the visit time. They were so pleased to meet them and called me over for an introduction too. The calls provide lots of really special moments in these extraordinary times.”
While supporting the staff working tirelessly in the hospitals has been a major priority, we’ve also been able to invest more than £2.2m in Covid-related research projects. Some of this research is ongoing and won’t conclude for some time, however one study has already revealed that a single dose of vaccine is highly effective in people who have had Covid. Other studies will examine why some groups of people are particularly badly affected, the role of vitamin D, and the impact of the pandemic on nurses who are just starting out in their careers.