The Samaritan Fund: helping those in need
While Guy’s and St Thomas’ does everything it can to give children the care and support they need, being in hospital can be hard on patients and their families, especially when they are experiencing financial hardship. The Samaritan Fund offers one-off support for the most underprivileged patients across Guy’s, St Thomas’ and Evelina London to help make the journey to recovery a little easier.
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 your loved one’s bedside.
The Samaritan Fund comes in for the patients at Guy’s and St Thomas’ and Evelina London who sadly find themselves in situations just like these.
Supported by a charitable endowment, this historic arrangement has been in place for centuries and allows health professionals to go the extra mile for those under their care who need a helping hand. If a patient or their family needs one-off support outside of the usual clinical care, this fund means the hospital can go above and beyond to help them, whatever they made need.
“Anything you can think of, if there’s a need we will do what we can to fund it,” says Jo Carter, Guy’s and St Thomas’ Director of Adult Nursing. “The Samaritan Fund really is there to provide any hardship support for any of our patients.”
“The Samaritan Fund is unique,” adds Mia Hilborn, Head of Spiritual Health Care at Guy’s and St Thomas’. “It helps staff alleviate distress quickly with some practical support.”
Supporting parents through hardship
When coronavirus safety precautions are not in place, the Samaritan Fund helps to reduce the financial barriers that make it difficult for sick patients to be with their family.
Something as simple as covering the cost of a taxi fare or paying for local accommodation can make all the difference, ensuring that a carer can visit a distressed disabled person close the end of their life when they would otherwise be unable to afford the journey.
The fund is also a lifeline of support for parents of young children who need ongoing specialist care at Evelina London.
“If a child has a long-term condition, the parents’ whole world will be changing,” says Mia.
Parents can lose their jobs due to the amount of time they’re spending at their child’s bedside in hospital and therefore unable to work. Sometimes situations can get so bad that people have even lost their homes. In these situations, the Samaritan Fund can extend support to help families who may already be going through a difficult time.
“If parents or single parents were 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,” she explains.
Extending comfort through to discharge and recovery
The Samaritan Fund also allows health professionals to help their patients get better once they leave the hospital. On discharge, some patients may need help getting set up for life as normal.
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 – 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.
“One young vulnerable patient had a job interview following discharge, but she had no clothes to wear,” recalls Jo. “So we bought her an interview suit so she had something to wear.”
The Fund also offers food parcels to ensure that patients have adequate food in the first few days after they’re discharged. Last year, patients were offered Christmas food packages containing about a weeks’ worth of food and some festive treats.
Supporting the homeless
Since 2015, the Samaritan Fund has started sponsoring projects, including an Advocacy project that helps disadvantaged groups such as homeless people or immigrants access benefits.
“They haven’t got anywhere to go or anyone to help them or support them,” explains Jo. “They can’t afford legal advice and they’re difficult to get hold of groups.”
“The project is run with our homeless team in a community that supports people who have been our patients in order to access advice for immigration and access to public funds predominantly.”
Together with the Guy’s and St Thomas’ homeless team, the Samaritan Fund has been able to help homeless people cut off from their support networks by paying for tickets to reunite them with their families and get them off the street.
Similarly, when a homeless patient gets set up in a house, the Fund can provide necessities like a bed, chair and crockery to help them settle in.
“It’s such an amazing ability to do good and to help people,” says Jo. “How amazing is it that you can provide someone with a fridge so they can look after their insulin or store their medications and food correctly. It’s so inspiring to help support someone off the street, and then have the ability to provide them with a bed to sleep on, a blanket and some clothes so they can start their journey to recovery.”
“It’s a wonderful fund, and a brilliant part of my job,” says Mia.
“I love it. I just feel really proud to have it as part of my job,” Jo added.
The Samaritan Fund is an endowment fund, so it won’t last forever. But you can help it to continue to offer vital support for those in need across the community. Donate today.