Health fundraising explored in new study

The past, present and future of charitable fundraising for health care is to be explored in new research involving the University of Strathclyde.

The study will explore ways in which health policy has understood, and sought to influence, the role of charities in the NHS by looking at the amount and distribution of charitable fundraising for NHS charities over time.

While the NHS is renowned as a state-run health service, it has always made space for charitable activities and some NHS hospital charities number amongst the country’s  wealthiest charitable organisations. The boundaries between state-run and charitably-run activities have shifted over the decades and have often been politically controversial. 

The research will generate a new account of the effects – both positive and negative – of charitable fundraising and charitable organisations in the UK health system. This will change our understanding of the NHS and inform discussions about the future of charities in the health service. 

The study has received £1.4 million funding from the Wellcome Trust and will be led  by Professor John Mohan of the University of Birmingham. Dr Ellen Stewart of the University of Edinburgh and Professor Martin Gorsky of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine are also partners in the research. The grant was awarded before the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Professor Bernard Harris, of Strathclyde’s School of Social Work & Social Policy, is the University’s lead on the project. He said: “When the National Health Service was established, it was intended to mark a clear break with earlier forms of health service provision. The new service was supposed to be comprehensive, universal and free at the point of use, with funding coming from a combination of general taxation and national insurance contributions.

"However, the founders of the NHS always recognised that charity would have some role to play, and this role has increased significantly in recent years. It has also gained a great deal of contemporary prominence as a result of the fundraising efforts of Captain Tom Moore and others during the current Coronavirus pandemic.

“This project will give us a great opportunity to take a more detailed look at how the relationship between charity and the NHS has evolved since 1948, and the different ways in which this may affect the funding of health care in the future.”

The project will engage with non-academic audiences through witness seminars, public lectures and an annual conference, while individual work packages will actively involve external stakeholders. As well as a website, regular project briefing notes and articles, the project will generate a book bringing together the main findings into a comprehensive reassessment of the complex relationships between charity and the NHS.