Where did Captain Tom’s money go?

Black and white picture of a young Tom Moore, a white man with a moustache wearing a British army officer's uniform.
Tom Moore as a second lieutenant during World War II.

Earlier this week Captain Sir Tom Moore, a World War II veteran who raised £33million for NHS-related charities by walking miles in the form of multiple lengths of his back garden during the first lockdown last Spring, died of Covid-19 which it is believed he contracted while on holiday in Barbados (or on his way there or back) in December, before the current lockdown was brought in. (He had been a second lieutenant during the war; the rank of captain was honorary.) Moore’s efforts inspired a number of others to undertake similar feats for charity, such as climbing mountains of their own house stairs. It has been widely claimed on social media that the money he raised was spent on routine supplies, in particular PPE (personal protective equipment) which was in desperately short supply at that time and a number of clothing manufacturers suspended normal operations to produce PPE instead. This is actually not true, as a friend with a locked Twitter account pointed out in a thread yesterday.

Moore’s money went to NHS Charities Together, an umbrella body for healthcare charities, not to the NHS itself or to NHS trust themselves. Charity money cannot in fact be used for routine supplies or for standard medical equipment such as CT scanners, nor for employing normal healthcare staff; it can, however, be used for better equipment than the NHS would normally supply, and for additional staff to perform roles that are specific to a given crisis, such as the current pandemic. In the case of Covid-19 appeal money, some of it was spent on technology such as tablets to keep patients in contact with their families at times when visiting was impossible; some was spent on the wellbeing of staff whose mental health was suffering as a result of working in the pandemic; other money was spent on bereavement support for both staff and patients. There is a FAQ here on the NHS-CT website although some of it is quite vague about the specifics of what the donations are spent on and how it differs from normal, tax-funded NHS spending.

I write this because I personally avoided donating money to this fund last year as I believed it was being spent on disposable PPE and that no amount of charity could supply any single trust’s PPE needs, much less the entire NHS; it would be a drop in the ocean and the money raised would be better spent elsewhere, especially as fundraising for other charitable purposes would have been reduced. This doubt was misplaced but it was encouraged by the media which referred to money being raised “for the NHS” in the context of a dire PPE shortage and did not tell us where the money was actually going.

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