The NHS is famously a state-run health service, yet it has always made space for some charitable activities. These include some of the wealthiest charities in the country. The boundaries between state-run and charitably-run activities have shifted over the decades. What difference do these unusual charitable actors make, and how should policy manage them in the future?

In our research programme, we will study how health policy has understood, and sought to change, the role of charities in the NHS. We will analyse the amount and distribution of charitable fundraising for NHS charities. Finally, we will study a selection of NHS charities, both historically, and in the present day. Together, we will develop a collective account of the effects, both positive and problematic, of these organisations in the UK health system. This will change understandings of the NHS, and inform suggestions for the future of charities in the NHS.

This project is extremely timely. Resource pressures have repeatedly stimulated debate about the potential contribution of charity to health services, but claims about the positive and negative aspects of charitable effort are often partisan and lacking in evidence. Our comprehensive and original programme of research will provide an essential dispassionate analysis, and its results will be highly relevant to stakeholders in the NHS, charities and their supporters, politicians, and all with an interest in informed debate about the contribution of charitable initiative in the welfare state.

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This research has been funded by a Wellcome Trust Collaborative Award in Humanities and Social Science (£1.4 million). It will run from 2020 – 2024.

The team is led by 4 Principal Investigators (PI’s): Professor John Mohan (University of Birmingham), Dr Ellen Stewart (University of Strathclyde), Professor Martin Gorsky (London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine), and Professor Bernard Harris (University of Strathclyde).

Contact us: v.close@bham.ac.uk

Charity and Children’s Hospitals: reflections from a one-day Symposium

By Dr Steph Haydon and Dr Francesca Vaghi In December 2023, the Border Crossings team hosted the Symposium: ‘Charity and Children’s Hospitals: Exceptionalism, Experiences and Welfare,’ at the University of Strathclyde. The event was inspired by an emerging theme from the Border Crossings project – that children’s hospitals, and children in hospitals, are often exceptions…

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‘Social democracy redistributes for the benefit of health, education, social housing, and the needy. Market liberalism pays for privatized health, education, pensions, and housing. It recycles debt into more and higher debt. It funds charity and substitutes it for entitlement. … Both social democracy and market liberalism are currently in crisis.’ Avner Offer, ‘The market turn: from social democracy to market liberalism’,

Economic History Review, 70, 4 (2017), pp. 1051, 1066-7.