Dear All

December is a perfect opportunity to look back both on the past year and forward to what next year may bring. 2020 has held individual challenges for us all, and everyone had to face varying difficulties along the way. I hope that you, and those close to you, have managed to stay safe and well.

For Stroud Hospitals League of Friends it has been an unusual year. Prior to the official lockdown that began on March 23rd, we swiftly pulled out our volunteers from all the valuable and much appreciated work they undertake at the hospital. Little did we anticipate that our lives would still be dominated at the end of the year by the Covid virus.

During the first lockdown, the League of Friends immediately released funds for the General Hospital and Maternity Hospital for them to purchase whatever they needed in response to the pandemic. Initially that was PPE which was difficult to source. However, we did manage to get some, and were able to supply the GP-led COVID hub too. We also funded accommodation for staff who could not remain in their own homes at the same time as they were caring for Covid patients. Much needed and nutritious ready meals were supplied to both the hospitals’ staff and the staff at the Covid hub. These were prepared by The Long Table, the Brimscombe-based social enterprise, with financial support from the League of Friends.

Our activity quietened down somewhat over the following months and the hospitals were well supplied by the NHS. Other extra hospital activity that we might normally support came to a halt. Respite care that we fund at Horsfall House and the yoga and singing groups at the maternity hospital were all suspended, as were other activities we fund, and the planned refurbishment projects at the hospital, to which we would have contributed, were also put on hold.

Ironically, given that we were in the midst of a global health crisis, we found that we were ending the year having spent far less than usual. Charity law and good practice dictates that trustees should not build up excessive reserves; in line with that, we decided to designate sufficient reserves for the various future major projects, and future expenditure, and together with the money we would have spent in a normal year, allocate some funds to local health-related charities that are providing services within our community.

Many local charities are being hit hard during the pandemic having lost precious income from their usual sources. Many have needed to increase their services because of additional demand and also spend money to continue to provide those services in a safe manner. We selected 14 local organisations, many with existing connections to the hospitals and League of Friends, that cover a range of health provision including: care of the elderly and palliative care, children with special needs and their families, youth support, mental health and food distribution, all within the Stroud area.

For example, we granted £10,000 to ‘Hope for Tomorrow’ that provides mobile cancer care at Stroud Hospital one day a week. This covers their Stroud costs for almost a year. In total, we distributed £143,000 – it was a surprise to all 14 organisations, and a positive note to end the year on.

We chose the organisations carefully to achieve maximum benefit for our local community, and to help provide services that complement those of our two hospitals or which relieve the demand upon the hospitals, be that for prevention, diagnostics or treatment.

The League of Friends is fortunate in being able to aggregate donations made to us – small, medium and large – into amounts that can make a significant difference to both the hospitals and the local health-focused charities that directly serve our community. So we are grateful for all the donation we can get.

As for next year, like everyone, we are hoping for a return to something like normality, but it will be a gradual process. We do not expect that our volunteers will be allowed to return for a while, and that will probably depend upon the roll-out of the vaccination programme. However, during the summer, the gardening group continued in a limited and careful manner to maintain the gardens and we do appreciate their efforts.

Finally, our thanks to the staff at the hospitals for the extraordinary work they have undertaken this year.

With best wishes to you all, on behalf of the Trustees of Stroud Hospitals  League of Friends.

Roma Walker, Chair