NEW REPORT: Health charities and the NHS. A vital partnership in peril? 

Press Release
19th JANUARY 2021    

NEW REPORTHealth charities and the NHS. A vital partnership in peril? 

A new study reveals how the Covid-19 pandemic has confirmed the vital contribution of health charities to the NHS. It argues that strategic engagement with the charities by health policy makers has declined in recent years and that substantial benefits for the health service as a whole would come with a reaffirmation of this partnership. 

The report by Dr Tony Hockley from the LSE and Professor Alison Leary from London South Bank University, commissioned by the National Garden Scheme, highlights the crucial services and leadership that healthcare charities provide for the NHS, both of which have been shown to be critical throughout the current pandemic. 

 It sets out that for hospice and end-of-life care, so threatened by Covid-19, the health service is dependent on charities for the provision of services. In this and other areas such as cancer care and social care, charities also provide vital leadership and strategic input. The report articulates the current fragility due to the pandemic and the resulting risk to services, and it sets out the pressing need for better recognition of and healthy engagement with these charities by policy makers, and the benefits that this would bring. 

The six health charities* included in the report are all supported with annual donations from the National Garden Scheme. 

Commenting on their findings, the report’s authors** Tony Hockley and Alison Leary said: The pandemic of 2020 accelerated the onset of the health and social care systems biggest challenges. It was a wakeup call about coping with rising daily deaths – a trend that is set to continue as our population ages.   The report reminds policymakers how much the nation’s health and care relies upon health charities and shares inspirational stories from these charities about their agility in keeping services going during the pandemic. They have done this despite a fundraising crisis, infection controls and weak planning around their involvement by health policymakers. Given what lies ahead, a much stronger partnership between the NHS and these major charities is imperative.”  

The report focuses on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in the UK and shows how, during the first wave, the charities stepped up with speed and expertise to provide services, innovation and expertise on the frontline, caring with compassion for those suffering and dying in our communities. In a context of fear and disruption these charities responded by re-deploying staff, increasing capacity and supporting patients inside and outside of hospitals. All of this was achieved in the face of drastic reductions in their traditional funding streams. 

Often the charities showed vital leadership and initiative to the NHS, whether in the provision of PPE, a policy for caring for the homeless, maintaining support for people living with cancer, or in the provision of endoflife care in the face of critically increased demand. 

Lord (Nigel) Crisp, former Chief Executive of the English NHS and Permanent Secretary at the UK Department of Health, who is also Patron of NHS Charities Together, commented: 

Health charities play a vital role in our society, something forcefully demonstrated by the pandemic. I fully support the call that this excellent report makes for a stronger partnership between charities and the NHS so that their contribution can have an even bigger impact in the future.” 

Representing the charities Lynda Thomas, CEO of Macmillan Cancer Support said: This exceptional contribution needs to be better understood and embraced by government. As health and social care charities, we play a vital role in the NHS and will need to do so in the future. Without these services and our support the workforce will be unable to meet demand.” 

Tracey Bleakley, CEO Hospice UK added“The crisis in recent months has served to break down previously existing barriers and opened eyes to the possibility of greater integration, collaboration and co-working between the NHS and health charities. The healthcare sector now has the opportunity to find innovative and complimentary skillsets to best help meet the needs of an ageing and increasingly vulnerable population. 



A printable version can be found here LSE Report January 2021

Printed copies are available – please email your postal address to [email protected] 



Supporting quotes: 

“Unity through partnership between healthcare charities, the NHS and social care will be central to the recovery of the UK’s population health so badly affected by COVID-19. This ground-breaking report from LSE demonstrates how this could be achieved We cannot act too soon to develop joint strategies working together for significant and lasting impact on people’s wellbeing.” 

Baroness (Mary) Watkins of Tavistock, RN, President, Nightingale Foundation 

This report is a good example of the many different ways that charities support wider outcomes in our healthcare and society. Properly valuing that support – including the sizeable bit that goes beyond pounds and pence – is an important part of the role charities play in our national wellbeing.” 

Sir Gus O’Donnell, former Cabinet Secretary 


The report’s authors and the CEO’s of each contributing charity, including the National Garden Scheme, are all available for comment. 

Please contact [email protected] for contact details. 


*The six contributing health charities – all funded by the National Garden Scheme – are: The Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI), Macmillan Cancer Support, Marie Curie, Hospice UK, Carers Trust and Parkinson’s UK 

**The Report’s Authors 

Tony Hockley is a Visiting Senior Fellow in the Department of Social Policy at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), and Director of the Policy Analysis Centre Ltd. Tony has served as Special Adviser to two Secretaries of State for Health, as Head of Research at the Social Market Foundation think tank, and as an expert adviser on health policy at the International Monetary Fund. He has taught on health policy and behavioural science courses at the LSE since 2005. In 1995 he was one of the founders of the Policy Analysis Centre Ltd. 

Tony’s Blog post: https://www.lse.ac.uk/business-and-consultancy/consulting/news/health-charities-and-the-nhs-in-a-pandemic

Alison Leary is a Professor of Healthcare and Workforce Modelling at London South Bank University. She undertakes various research projects around the modelling of complex systems. She has worked clinically and analytically in cancer for much of the last 25 years. She is Fellow of the Royal College of Nursing, a Fellow of the Queens Nursing Institute and a Winston Churchill Fellow for which she examined high reliability organisations looking at safety. She worked in league football for over 20 years and in 2019 received an MBE for modelling spectator safety. 

About the National Garden Scheme 

The National Garden Scheme was founded in 1927 by The Queen’s Nursing Institute to raise money for district nurses. Ever since then it has given annual donations to nursing and health charities totalling over £60 million. It gives visitors unique, affordable access to over 3,500 exceptional private gardens in England and Wales and raises impressive amounts through admission charges and the sale of tea and cake.  

Thanks to the generosity of garden owners, volunteers and visitors we are now the most significant charitable funder of nursing in the UK. As well as the Queen’s Nursing Institute, our beneficiaries include Macmillan Cancer Support, Marie Curie, Hospice UK and Parkinson’s UK. 

The National Garden Scheme doesn’t just open beautiful gardens for charity – we are passionate about the physical and mental health benefits of gardens too. We fund projects which promote gardens and gardening as therapy, and in 2016 commissioned The Kings Fund report Gardens and Health. Our Gardens and Coronavirus 2020: The importance of gardens and outdoor spaces during lockdown report was published in September 2020. 

All enquiries to [email protected] 

Lead image: Brian Morrison/Marie Curie

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