The cash-strapped Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital NHS trust has set up a crowdfunding appeal in order to raise the £400,000 required to fully equip their expanded spinal injuries unit. A former patient of the hospital, Marcus Daley, who is passionate about the service it provides, is fronting the campaign, which has so far raised £126,000.
The trust Chief Executive Rob Hurd, said that:
“We have to be frank, capital is constrained in our National Health Service and investment in facilities is really difficult at this time. We are putting all our money into front-line nurses, doctors and providing the services. That means the infrastructure that we have got doesn’t get replaced as quickly as we would like. So we need the help of donations and charitable sources to make those additional investments. So we really value those donations because without them we cannot even get started.”
Despite being the world’s leading centre for treating spinal chord injuries, the hospital operates out of a series of ageing buildings and portacabins – some of which have been in use since before World War Two.
The crowdfunding scheme has been described by the GMB trade union National Secretary Rehana Azam, as a “damning indictment” of the current state of funding in the NHS. She went on to say that:
“It seems that it’s not just workers and patients who are expected to suffer at the hands of NHS cuts; apparently the public’s bank balances are too.”
In a typically mealy-mouthed statement that did not address any specifics relating to the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, a DoH spokesperson said that:
“£10bn is being invested nationwide into the NHS, including about £4bn extra this year and a further £20bn to fund capital programmes such as maintenance and building projects. Where trusts need additional funding for capital projects they can apply for it to ensure facilities are of the highest standards for patients.”
While ‘crowdfunding’ may be a modern term, the principle is not. I remember very clearly the 1980’s and endless local fundraising campaigns to purchase a new scanner, or to keep a ward open. While the internet and online crowdfunding campaigns may be relatively recent phenomena, government under-funding and their cynical reliance on the public’s generosity to plug the holes, is as old as the hills.