“One of my friends told me she had to perform a C-section on a patient with just a surgical mask and there were no goggles, nothing. That’s quite close contact procedure, after that she had to go into self isolation for a week… you hear a lot of these stories.”
These are the concerning words of Dr Mona Barzin, a London GP who also currently works for 111. Hearing similar accounts from friends and colleagues drove her and three others to launch the “masks4nhsheroes” campaign.
Their aim, to raise money for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for NHS staff, who they fear are “going to war without armour and protection.”
In just six days, Dr Barzin, Dr Salaj Masand, Mr Ravi Visagan and Mr Nav Kumar, have raised close to £1.3m, surpassing the initial target of £200,000. With over 20,000 individual donations the campaign has also highlighted the support for the country’s NHS staff at a time when they surely need it.
“Sometimes it feels like an alternate universe, it’s unbelievable,” Dr Barzin said. “It hasn’t really hit us properly, it feels absolutely crazy to raise over a million pounds in four days,” she said.
The fundraising campaign itself went viral and garnered support from celebrities. Among them, Scottish actor James McAvoy, who pledged an incredible £275,000 to the campaign, which will raise funds for equipment such as masks, visors and gloves.
“The thing I didn’t realise is how much people want to help the NHS. It’s not like you can just give money to the NHS, help it out. I think this crowd fund shows you that people want to help, they don’t know how to help but they’ve found an opportunity to say ‘NHS staff we can see you, we can hear you, it’s terrible on the frontline and we want to help, here’s a donation!’ I think it’s been great.”
There are also thousands of comments on the campaign page. Scrolling through touching tributes to those on the frontline, adulation to our “NHS heroes” and even personal tales of tragedy make for powerful reading.
One donor wrote, “The ordinary people of the country are right behind you. Your dedication and bravery will not be forgotten when this is all over.” Another reads, “so many amazing friends of mine work on the NHS frontline in the UK with no proper protection. So happy to be part of the change to help these amazing, life saving people.” It’s hard not to be moved by every story.
So, what happens now? The fundraising continues, but the next challenge is getting the equipment to those that need it.
“Now is the trickiest part, now it’s all about logistics and planning and delivery. A lot of governance, organisation, admin, so that’s really what’s to come next. The delivery will be one of the best parts, because you’re donating the PPE, people will send photos of them using it, you’re going to be getting the feedback from the hospitals, so that part will be really great.
“The NHS has got a lot of the equipment anyway, but there will be supply gaps in their distribution. So, we’re hoping we can communicate with them and find out where these gaps are and if there are big gaps that need to be filled, then those will be filled first.
“We’re also looking at AI and analytics to find out where the highest concentration of COVID-19 is, the highest demand, feedback from people who are in the hospitals on the frontline and then try to target the donations based on that. The difficulty is everything changes, because you can see the growth of COVID-19 is so exponential, it can change on a daily basis. But that’s the plan.”
You can support the masks4nhsheroes campaign here: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/masks4nhsheroes