Caring for our carers – working for an NHS Charity during COVID-19

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Written by: Vanessa Holmes – Head of Milton Keynes Hospital Charity – Women Leaders 2019 Winner

Three months ago, as the world around us turned upside down and pressures grew on the NHS, the work of our charity changed overnight.

I’m proud to lead Milton Keynes Hospital Charity – a small NHS charity that raises funds to make a difference to patients, their families and staff at the hospital. We focus on making connections with the local community to fund projects that go over and above the NHS standard.

It was mid-March when the proverbial rug was pulled from under us. The function of our small charity team transformed from fundraising to emergency planning, logistics management and distribution. Suddenly, our main purpose was to care and support NHS staff during one of the hardest times of their lives.

As we entered lockdown our team started to spend hours per day sourcing hotel accommodation for staff needing to isolate from their families; collecting and distributing items including PPE, hot meals, handmade scrubs, snacks and drinks. All whilst juggling, like the rest of the country, with remote working, self-isolating and childcare.

Then staff started messaging us to say thank you – that the support was making a huge difference, that donations were keeping them going and that the community coming together meant so much. We loved letting our supporters know they were helping, and it lifted us too.

The feedback came at the same time as Captain Tom Moore launched his 100 mile walk for NHS Charities Together – our overarching “parent” NHS charity – and being caught up in that story of hope, which inspired so many, was just an amazing feeling.

I have never been more overwhelmed with the support of a community as I have these past few months. How people have given selflessly; wanting to say thank you and give something back. The fact that we were able to facilitate that has been a pleasure and a privilege.

We launched our urgent COVID-19 appeal on March 27, which has so far generated £153,000. We’ve already spent and allocated a huge chunk of that money on a staff wellbeing hub, care packs, 80 mobile phones to enable virtual visiting and consultations, a newspaper delivery service for patients and a staff room refurbishment programme. We estimate this has benefited several thousand people at such a difficult time.

And as we continue to receive donations and kind gestures, the only words left to say are – THANK YOU.

Thank you to the community who came together to support the NHS, including all those donors and fundraisers.

Thank you to those volunteers who quickly rose to the challenge in helping us support our colleagues.

And thank you to #TeamMKUH, who it has been an amazing experience to support.

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