Running innovative programmes
The Samaritan Fund: helping those in need
Thanks to donations, the Samaritan Fund at Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital is able to support the most underpriviledged patients at Guy's and St Thomas'.
A fund for those most in need
Being in hospital can be stressful and upsetting, no matter how good the care you receive is. But imagine not being able to afford to meet your most basic of needs, such as clothes to wear home upon your discharge, or food to eat whilst sitting at a loved one’s bedside. Many of the patients at Guy’s and St Thomas’ sadly find themselves in situations just like these, which is exactly where the Samaritan Fund comes in.
Supported by charitable money, this historic arrangement has been in place for centuries, with the fund holder traditionally being either the chaplain or hospitaller. The Samaritan Fund is reserved for the most underprivileged patients of Guy’s and St Thomas’, meeting a wide range of needs and covering many different scenarios. Careful assessment is made by nurses and social workers, based on their interaction with patients on the ward. If it is believed that a patient or their family needs extra support outside of the usual clinical care, this fund means the hospital can go above and beyond to help them.
Clothing can be a common problem for some patients. They may have been involved in an accident and had their clothes cut off by the paramedics, or have been brought in from their bed wearing only pyjamas, or they may even have entirely changed their body shape due to their illness; if the patient has no family or friends to bring them something to wear, the Samaritan Fund will provide this for them.
Supporting parents through hardship
Another common scenario is for parents of young patients of the children’s hospital Evelina London, according to fund holder and head of spiritual health care at Guy’s and St Thomas’, Mia Hilborn.
‘If a child has a long-term condition, the parents’ whole world will be changing,’ explains Mia.
‘If the parents or single parent was working but they’ve had to let go of their job because their child is in hospital, a social worker will help them sort out benefits. But there’s usually a two-month gap before the benefits kick in, so we fund that gap. That’s very common. We want to know that those people aren’t going to starve.’
Parents can lose their jobs due to the amount of time they’re at their child’s bedside in hospital and therefore unable to work. Mia has occasionally seen situations get so bad that people have even lost their homes, so support is offered in those circumstances.
Giving comfort throughout the year
The fund is also used for the little personal touches that can make someone’s time in hospital slightly more pleasant. Last year Christmas stockings were given out to over 1,000 inpatients over the festive season, to help bring some cheer whilst they were away from home.
‘When you went up to intensive care on Christmas morning, every single bed had their stockings hanging on the drip holders; it was really cool,’ recalls Mia.
‘There was one lady who came in through A&E who was so delighted to receive it that she sent me a photograph. She had two ward transfers and everywhere she went she clutched her stocking. It was very nice.’
In plans for the fund to become more project-focused, areas such as homelessness, the elderly, the underprivileged and supporting staff in patient welfare projects are all being considered. This means that 2015 will bring even more positive developments for the Samaritan Fund, an initiative which Mia already describes as, ‘the single most useful thing that you could ever be involved in.’