UPDATE 28 MARCH: You can now support the Charity through Virgin Money Giving - do check it out!
One message the Covid pandemic has reinforced: thank goodness Great Britain has a National Health Service. The enthusiastic Thursday night clapping for carers was a reflection of that.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of a charity a West Oxfordshire practice set up in response to similar expressions of gratitude. The Eynsham and Long Hanborough Medical Care Group (Registered Charity No. 1054246) came into being on 21 March 1996 to handle the generous gifts and bequests it receives from patients and their loved ones.
It has a board of trustees drawn from present and past doctors, staff and representatives of the communities it serves. Founder member, now chairman, Dr Paul Coffey says: ‘It is extremely gratifying the support it has received down the years and the ways it has enhanced the service the practice provides.’
The doctor responsible, now retired, was Trustee Philip Stephenson, who had not long come to Eynsham. He recalls: ‘I heard of a practice at Wantage that had set up a charity. I thought what a good idea. A local solicitor acting on a pro bono basis, kindly helped me.’
It aimed to provide extras the NHS did not. With funds just short of £1,400 its first purchases were a resuscitation training doll and a syringe driver to enable doctors and district nurses to provide more effective pain relief for terminally ill patients. Its latest are clinicians’ half masks for doctors and staff at both surgeries, who find patients have difficulty hearing them wearing the standard issue full masks or cause problems for those of them who wear glasses.
As the word went round more donations started rolling in. Philanthropic bodies like the Rotary and Freemasons lent their support. Groups like Eynsham Roadrunners fund-raised.
In 1999 the charity organised its own Health Walk round Eynsham — with the offer of a fitness check before and a foot massage afterwards! — to raise £2,000 to purchase two spirometers to assist in the diagnosis and management of chest diseases.
Since then, among other things, it has been responsible for air conditioning the waiting rooms at the practice’s Eynsham and Long Hanborough surgeries, 24-hour blood pressure monitors, lights to help with surgical and other procedures, 24-hour electrocardiograms to monitor heart rhythms, defibrillators, hydraulic height adjustable couches, pulse oximeters to measure oxygen levels, a phlebotomy couch, an interactive website, occasional small grants to patients in need and in 2019, thanks to the generosity of Aelfric Masonic Lodge, a vein viewer to help phlebotomists with patients from whom it is difficult to draw blood.
Advances in digital technology have meant there is a constant need to provide new aids to help with patient care. However, in the last decade the major call on the charity’s resources has been a van and part-time driver to deliver prescriptions to the house-bound, a service made possible by a substantial bequest.
The succession of Covid lockdowns has made the call for home deliveries from self-isolating patients ever more demanding — and challenging: like other charities, since the pandemic the Medical Care Group has noticed a significant drop-off in donations.
Meanwhile the practice itself has been in the frontline in the fight against Covid. The new surgery at Long Hanborough, which welcomed its first regular patients on 8 March, has been acting as a centre for administering the Oxford vaccine. The Eynsham surgery has been trialling the new single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine with the help of hundreds of volunteer patients.
In addition the charity has recently taken under its wing another local charity, the Hanborough Welfare Trust, set up several centuries ago, which uses the rental it receives from two pieces of land to make small cash grants to those in need in its locality. It will continue to operate independently but can now use surplus funds to benefit the Long Hanborough surgery.