Dr Ellen Stewart

Project Title: “All the voluntary help we can get”: contemporary public donations of money to Scotland’s NHS

The fundraising of Captain Tom Moore and many others during the coronavirus outbreak has made charitable giving to the NHS much more visible. Public fundraising and donations for health services have been common in the UK since before the NHS was created in 1948. However, the NHS is now a state-run system funded by general taxation, and public fundraising can be a controversial topic.

Dr Ellen Stewart’s Research Incentive Grant funded research to explore the contemporary issue of charitable funds – known in Scotland as NHS endowments – in the Scottish Health Boards. The grant employed postdoctoral fellow Dr Kathy Dodworth on a part-time basis, as well as funding travel across Scotland’s diverse Health Boards. We collected and analysed financial information about the endowments, interviewed endowment staff in twelve of Scotland’s territorial Health Boards, and interviewed and observed public fundraisers in action in two areas.

The research suggested that the work of the different endowments was increasingly diverging. While some have embraced active fundraising, others remain very cautious, and focused on reactively managing existing financial funds. These approaches reflect very different underlying understandings of the appropriate role of charity in the NHS. Several Boards had embraced public ‘crowdfunding’ of new facilities, and these had created opportunities for public engagement and relationship-building, as well as financial donations.

A summary is available and academic outputs are underway but the main impact of the grant was as groundwork for a much larger programme of research. With Bernard Harris (University of Strathclyde), John Mohan (University of Birmingham) and Martin Gorsky (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine), Stewart was successful in securing a £1.4 million Wellcome Trust Collaborative Award in Humanities & Social Science to explore the past, present and future of charity in the NHS. The programme of work will begin in October 2020 and run until September 2024.

Awarded: Research Incentive Grant

Field: Social Policy & Social Work

University: University of Edinburgh

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