Run 5, Donate 5, Nominate 5 more. We’ve all seen it splashed over our Instagram feeds and have probably been quick to jump on the trend, running five kilometres in aid of the National Health Service during the coronavirus pandemic. Some have coined the challenge an example of classic British spirit, others condemning the trend as an effort to paint the NHS as a charitable fund, rather than a state-financed institution. But to what degree is the trend truly harmful, and what will the future of our beloved health service look like?
With over £2 million already raised from individual contributions to NHS charities, this challenge, alongside a number of other similar trends (and of course, the incredible Captain Tom Moore) will undoubtedly improve the UK’s response to the coronavirus. But this begs the question, why were such charitable donations needed? It seems evident that these trends have highlighted an undeniable under-funding of our National Health Service. A lack of sufficient funding has resulted in staff members not having anywhere near adequate access to basic personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect themselves at work, with some unions now encouraging health staff who feel unsafe at work to stay at home. PPE stocks were silently depleted in UK hospitals over the last few years prior to the pandemic and the Department of Health is now claiming that certain items of PPE (including plastic aprons and full-length medical gowns) can be reused to mitigate the effects of the limited supply. Many health workers are being forced to choose between sourcing and purchasing PPE privately, or working in close contact with coronavirus patients without the satisfactory equipment.
Matt Hancock’s account of the situation was shockingly laissez faire, describing the lack of PPE as merely a ‘pressure point’, with over 50 British health workers now dead as a result of contracting coronavirus. It goes without saying that this is an unacceptable disservice to our key workers.
Despite this, for me, the Run 5, Donate 5 challenge is not an attempt to depoliticise the NHS by moving towards some kind of charitable funding. These types of trends are surely the British public contributing what they can to help the institution they are incredibly grateful for in a time of crisis. People are not beginning to consider the National Health Service to be a charitable organisation, they are simply trying to rally together and help in any small way they can. I think it is reasonable to assume that even if the NHS was sufficiently funded, members of the public would still be looking to contribute to do their bit. It is just upsetting that in this case, it is absolutely necessary that individuals are donating, where the NHS so crucially needs that financial support.
Looking forward, we can only hope that the citizens of this nation will not forget the astonishing gratitude we currently have for our National Health Service. Those of us who had forgotten the fundamental role our health workers play in our everyday lives will hopefully continue to remember and appreciate their resilience in the years to come. It seems likely that improving conditions and pay for our NHS staff will be on the political agenda following this crisis, and we all need to be ready to hold our government accountable for delivering those changes. It is critical that we do not let our government forget who the heroes of this pandemic were and when this is all over, we must do our bit to ensure we see real change. This might be through lobbying our local MPs for pay rises for nurses, or for introducing a minimum wage for care workers which reflects the true weight of their role. I think it would be foolish to assume that the Run 5, Donate 5 challenge, or any such trend, will prompt any sort of charitable funding for the National Health Service post-pandemic, where such a move would surely be political suicide.
One thing which unites this country is our love and appreciation for our National Health Service. Almost every one of us will be reliant on this institution at some point in our lives and it would be an unforgivable tragedy if, after this crisis, we were to forget just how critical it is once more.
Image credits: Flickr.com