The Royal Free Charity stands alongside the Royal Free London offering incredible support to our patients and their families, our staff and our researchers. 

At the beginning of 2022 came the allocation of the donations received during the Royal Free Charity’s Breaking Point fundraising appeal. 

The charity launched the Breaking Point appeal the previous winter in response to an array of competing challenges facing the trust as we recovered from the long-lasting effects of the pandemic. This included supporting pioneering research into long COVID, reducing surgery waiting times and boosting staff wellbeing.

Jon Spiers, Royal Free Charity chief executive, said: “We had an amazing response to the appeal. As a result, we were able to fund a suite of projects to improve the experience of patients, speed up vital research into long COVID and bolster the wellbeing and resilience of our wonderful RFL workforce.”

Funding from the Breaking Point appeal was allocated in three themed areas: 


£261,846 was awarded for research into long COVID to predict who is most at risk of developing long COVID, and how severe their symptoms are likely to be. In the long term, the analysis and findings could lead to the development of better targeted treatments which will help people to recover faster. 

Patient experience  

£45,694 was awarded to fund a digital platform to speed up the pathway to elective surgery for patients. The platform will: 

• Provide all patients undergoing elective procedures a digital option for their pre-treatment screening, reducing the number of hospital appointments needed before surgery
• Facilitate the increased use of remote consultations for low-risk surgery to offer patients greater choice and ensure there are more in-person slots available for those with complex needs or who prefer a face-to-face consultation 
• Provide patients with relevant information about their treatment in an easy-to-read electronic format prior to their consultation, reducing the delays in obtaining informed consent that can lead to late-stage surgery cancellations. 

Staff wellbeing 

£113,000 was awarded to fund measures to boost staff wellbeing and resilience, including virtual reality (VR) therapy and staff rest spaces. 

• Most of this allocation was invested in VR technology to address staff anxiety, stress and burnout. In pilot tests, staff took part in a range of immersive experiences using simulator headsets, including drumming sessions, beach walks and deep-sea diving. Initial feedback shows staff report feeling calmer, less anxious and more relaxed after taking part in a VR therapy session. 
• Grant funding was also awarded towards the refurbishment costs of key areas, including wellbeing spaces for specific departments, and the creation of ‘wobble rooms’ where staff who have been emotionally affected by a traumatic incident can decompress alone or with a trusted colleague.

Psychological support for staff 

Funding from the Royal Free Charity has resulted in a package of mental health and wellbeing support for the RFL’s 10,000 staff. It ranges from psychological support with qualified therapists to peer support in the form a mental health first aid programme. In 2022, the charity funded the extension of this support with a £250,000 grant. 

Carol Menashy, who leads on the delivery of the mental health first aider programme, said: “People open up to us about mental health struggles and we can signpost them for support to the most appropriate professional rank or service. 

“Having the charity’s funding has made that crucial difference. It gives us that time to reach those people who wouldn't necessarily find our service otherwise.”

Staff experience grants 

Staff-led projects totalling £50,000 were awarded funding form the charity’s staff experience grants.  Eight grants received a share of the total pot of £50,000. 

Grants awarded include:
• Upgrades to staff areas for the domestic and portering, occupational health, and neuro rehabilitation teams at the Royal Free Hospital
• Provision of staff room equipment for the paediatric emergency department and the acute assessment unit at BH
• A grant of £4,500 to the LGBTQ+ staff network to create a training programme for staff so they can better support colleagues, patients and their loved ones.  The training programme will raise awareness of LGBTQ+ experiences in work and healthcare, and foster a better understanding of LGBTQ+ terminology and sensitive communication.

Other support

• The charity was the official sponsor of the Royal Free London’s annual staff awards, helping to ensure that outstanding contributions of staff and volunteers are recognised and celebrated.
• Pride in London, returned to the capital in 2022 after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to charity funding, staff from RFL and the Royal Free Charity joined over 600 community groups taking part in the Pride Parade which commemorated 50 years since the London’s first march for gay rights in 1973. 

Looking ahead 

A fundraising appeal by the charity raised £300k in just five days to support projects that will improve cancer services for our patients. 

Thanks to the donations received during the appeal, we’ll be able to introduce London’s first thoracoscopy service so that patients with a fluid-filled lung cavity will get their symptoms treated at the same time as having a biopsy – merging two steps on the cancer pathway into one. 

The funding will also be used to:
• Extend contrast enhanced digital mammography to Barnet Hospital – so patients with suspected breast cancer can get a faster and more accurate diagnosis
• Launch VR as distraction therapy for chemotherapy patients at Chase Farm Hospital and Finchley Memorial Hospital to reduce anxiety and chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.

Jon Spiers added: “Our ability to fund these projects is thanks to the generosity of our supporters, many of whom are patients of the Royal Free London, and their families. Thanks to that support we can help the trust to go further and faster than would be possible with NHS funding alone.”

Caroline Clarke, group chief executive of the Royal Free London, said: “We are so grateful to everyone who supports the Royal Free Charity, including our amazing volunteers and donors. We look forward to seeing what opportunities 2023 brings.”