The NHS is not a charity

Over the past few weeks you have, no doubt, seen the various challenges and fundraisers circulating around social media. Run 5, Donate 5, Nominate 5. The 2.6 Challenge. And most importantly, Captain Tom Moore, who has raised £29 million by completing one hundred laps of his garden for his 100th birthday. In total, over the last month or so, around £80 million has been raised, all in aid of the NHS.

Despite this, it is important to remember that the NHS is not a charity. The NHS is supposed to be a free and accessible healthcare system funded by our taxes and the Government Budget. However, a long history of underfunding and cuts means that this is no longer the case. Historically, each NHS trust had a charity attached in order to provide extra funds for research and experimental treatments. Unfortunately, these are now being used to fill the gaps where the system is unable to cope. Nowadays, NHS Charities give more than £1 million a day, year-round, to support the basic running of our healthcare system.

A large amount of this money comes from ordinary, working people who are already funding the system through their taxes. Whilst people are entitled to give their hard-earned money to this fantastic cause, their donations should not be relied upon. COVID-19 has only served to amplify this, making it clear just how underfunded our NHS is. The question is: where do we draw the line? What should be provided by the state and when should charities be able to top this up?

Take PPE for example. Over the past month, schools and businesses across the country have been making and donating vital equipment to the NHS. Frontline staff are relying on these donations to protect themselves due to a shortage of equipment. Some workers are even sourcing or making their own out of household items. which are not even close to providing the acceptable standard of protection. These people are now risking their lives every day and over one hundred NHS staff members have already died from the virus. It goes without saying that PPE is a necessity and must be provided by the government as a basic requirement. However, they have failed to provide this on a number of occasions.

We should be grateful to those who have generously donated to the NHS, whether financially or otherwise. They have been, undoubtedly, vital in the fight against the virus. Many of these charities have extremely worthwhile causes and are doing amazing work. However, this does not mean that it is right. It should not be down to the general public to fund essential, lifesaving services. We need more government funding to ensure that the NHS does not need to depend on charities in order to function.

If like many people, you do not feel comfortable donating money, there are many other ways in which you can help fight the coronavirus. If you are keen to help the NHS you are able to volunteer, something which 750,000 people have already done. This can either be a physical support role, such as transporting patients or delivering food and supplies. However, if you don’t feel comfortable or are not able to do this, then there is also the option of becoming a ‘check-in and chat’ volunteer which provides a helpline for lonely and vulnerable people. There are also a number of other charities and organisations working tirelessly to ensure that the most vulnerable are protected during this time, such as food banks, who desperately need donations.

The fact that a 99-year-old, who has fought for his country, has raised millions for the NHS is something to be immensely proud of. However, it should also be questioned. He should feel confident that as someone who has given to his country, his country should be able to give back to him. It is not his responsibility to take care of the NHS, but the Government’s.

The Government must take care of the NHS, so that the NHS can continue to take care of us. 

Annabel Bowker

Image: LibreShot.