Sporting stars and celebrities have backed a new fundraising campaign at the Royal United Hospital – which is already £1million on its way thanks to the generosity of a local family.
I’m A Celebrity TV star Martin Roberts is among those to get involved as the public are now being asked to help raise the remaining money for a new outpatient centre.
Through their charitable foundation, business couple Andrew and Christina Brownsword have pledged to match £1m worth of donations for the Forever Friends Appeal’s new “RNHRD and Therapies Centre” Campaign, which was launched on Tuesday morning.
Andrew Brownsword was joined by appeal ambassadors at the existing RUH Therapies Department, as well as RUH staff and patients.
Among the ambassadors supporting the campaign are Olympian Sharron Davies and Paralympic medallists Stephanie Millward and Ben Rushgrove.
The campaign wants to raise more than £2million towards the building of the new centre, described as a “purpose-built outpatient facility which will provide treatment, care and education for patients to recover from episodes of illness or injury, or to manage their long-term condition.”
Visiting the existing hydrotherapy pool on Tuesday morning, Mr Brownsword said: “By establishing this ‘Brownsword Match Funding Challenge’ we want to ensure that every pound the public donates is matched with another pound from us to help the appeal reach its target.
“After hearing patient experiences, we were compelled to get involved. Please join us in raising as much as possible to ensure this new centre, so important to the most effective and best possible care of patients and their families, takes shape over the next two years.”
Why is it needed?
Gina Sargeant, head of therapies at the RUH and Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases, said: “We’re creating a nurturing environment with dedicated specialist facilities for our patients.
“Designed in conjunction with staff and patients, the centre will include a large hydrotherapy pool, specialist gym and rehabilitation equipment, and a Biologics treatment space to support treatment, recovery, wellbeing and the management of long-term conditions.
“The expertise, heritage and international reputation of the RNHRD will combine with a local reputation for excellent care, leading to the provision of a unique facility at District General Hospital level for the benefit of thousands of people across Bath, Somerset and Wiltshire.”
Dr Raj Sengupta, consultant rheumatologist at the RNHRD said: “The numerous services planned to be collocated in the new building are not always as high in public profile as say some treatments for cancer.
“However, if you are one of the 75,000 people that will be treated in the new RNHRD and Therapies Centre, they are essential to the nurturing of your recovery or treatment – they are fundamental to nearly all patient ‘journeys’ through the hospital.”
Tim Hobbs, head of fundraising at the Forever Friends Appeal, said: “Our current facilities for these services are costly to maintain and update in order to meet modern healthcare standards. They are also too dispersed across the hospital and on two different sites.
“This situation does not complement or help facilitate the hospital’s aims for achieving the highest quality of clinical care. Therefore the generous support we have received from the Brownsword family is absolutely vital to our patients.
“We hope it will encourage the public to get involved and help us reach our target of £2million which will complement the circa £14 million being invested in the building from NHS sources.”
Two people with special reason to back the campaign tell their stories
Nic Noble explains why the RNHRD & Therapies Centre means so much to her…
“Nearly 18 years ago I had my beautiful daughter, Alice. My husband and I already had two boys; Jake, nine, and Lewis, seven. Little did I know or expect that three weeks later I would be in the Royal United Hospital with a deep vein thrombosis.
“The consultant gave me the medication I had to inject every morning and the thrombosis would be disbursed. Unfortunately as this was happening, the medication was slowly eating away my vertebrae. It was becoming increasingly difficult to pick up Alice, look after the boys, look after our home, and our business, as we are self-employed.
“By April, during the Easter holidays, I collapsed and was taken into the RUH. I was able to keep Alice with me in a side ward with the help of my mum, sister and mother-in-law. An MRI scan unveiled six of my vertebrae had collapsed and I was diagnosed with osteoporosis. I was referred to Dr Bhalla at the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases (RNHRD, or the Min). The Min were fantastic – Dr Bhalla, the physios and the hydro pool team gave me the support I needed for my recovery.
“The following year my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer; after chemo and having both her breasts removed, she decided raising money would be the way for us to go! So she trained for the Bath Half and we trained to walk marathons. She did a wing walk and I shaved her hair. Then the cancer was found in her lungs and she explained to me it was my turn to run!
“We had also approached The Forever Friends Appeal about a walk we wanted to do around the hospital’s catchment area and Tim said yes. Our first walk was in 2006, raising £40,000. In 2007, I trained and completed the Bath Half and the London Marathon with Nessa’s relentless encouragement.
“Ness was very poorly around the time of the second walk but asked me to promise to carry on raising money for a new Cancer Centre. Sadly, in the November, Ness passed away, but her legacy lives on. The walks to date have raised over £300,000. Without the Mineral Hospital, I would never have been able to keep my last promise to Ness.
“The RNHRD & Therapies Centre will help so many more patients like me. At a time when you are frightened, in pain and need fantastic support, this new facility will provide a positive and nurturing environment.
“This is a wonderful project to provide bigger and better facilities that will help so many people in our community.”
Richard Hayes, a 44-year-old hydrotherapy patient, also has good reason to back this campaign…
“I have always been fit and illness free, but in the spring of 2016 began suffering with balance issues. An MRI scan showed I had an aggressive spinal tumour in the thoracic spine which was destroying bone and squashing the spinal cord.
“The team at the RUH were fantastic in diagnosing this and then sent me to Oxford spinal unit where I stayed for a month. During this time I had sclerotherapy which has stopped the tumour growing, although subsequent scans have shown it is the same size as it was in July so I am having regular visits to Oxford spinal for assessment.
“They can operate but there are risks involved due to its position and that it is squashing the spinal cord. I have an MRI and clinic scheduled for February, so a decision on what happens next will be made then.
“My recovery has been good as I have gone from a wheelchair, to zimmer frame, to sticks to nothing. If you look at me now you will see me walking well, although I do still have balance issues and do struggle on slopes and in busy environments. Running or riding a bike are completely out of the question at the moment.
“The physiotherapy I have received in Oxford and Bath has been a great help, but more than anything, the course of hydrotherapy has shown the most dramatic success. The weekly 30 minute session has helped greatly and has also given me exercises to do myself in a swimming pool to help my strength and balance.
“I have three boys (7, 5 and 3) so a full recovery would be wonderful to allow me to run, ride a bike etc with them; the last seven months have been difficult but with the support of my wife, we’ve got through it and hope continued improvement and shrinkage or removal of the tumour will follow over the next few months.
“During my time in hospital I have received amazing care from all the doctors, nurses and support staff and I wish the Forever Friends Appeal all the best in being able to raise the funds for this amazing project.”
How do I get involved?
As well as making instant donations by phone, post or online, an instant donation can be made by texting TFFA17 £10 to 70070. Visit www.foreverfriendsappeal.co.uk to donate online.
Fundraising events such as Fire and Ice Walk in March and the Walk of Life in May will also contribute and members of the public are invited to organise their own events as well.
Mr Hobbs added: “The public’s charitable donations working in partnership with NHS funding are really important – they enable the clinicians and project managers to ‘think out of the box’, innovate, and make our facilities really special for patients here at the RUH.
“There are many ways to get involved – the Brownsword Match Funding Challenge will maximise the impact of people’s efforts, such as our Therapies Staff taking part in the Appeal’s Fire and Ice Walk on Sunday, March 5, to kick start their fundraising efforts.”