Like many organisations and businesses, coronavirus has had a significant impact on our organisation. The demand for our lifesaving work doesn’t stop and the support for our patients is ever more important. We will weather the storm because we are needed by patients now and we know that the need for our work and services will extend far beyond the time of the coronavirus pandemic. We are proud to save lives today, we will be proud to save lives in the future.
Today, I want to openly share with you some of the steps we have taken to ensure we continue to save and improve the lives of people with blood cancer and blood disorders during the current coronavirus pandemic. At the same time, we have been working diligently to ensure that we can be there for generations of patients to come. I’m not going to pretend that the current landscape isn’t challenging, it is for all of us, but I am proud of our joint resolve to do whatever it takes for patients. This is what is driving us forward each and every day.
At Anthony Nolan, we are working hard to ensure our patients continue to receive lifesaving transplants wherever possible, that our research efforts reflect the ever-changing environment, and that our people – colleagues, patients, supporters and donors – feel supported during this time. Over the last few weeks, we have achieved an incredible amount with the support of everyone involved at Anthony Nolan and with the strong endorsement of our committed trustee Board. While it hasn’t been easy, I am proud of our team’s commitment, responsiveness and determination in ensuring we are doing our absolute best for our patients.
We have, and always will, put our patients first
ESTABLISHED THE HEATHROW HUB
We have set up a hub at Heathrow airport to allow stem cells to be safely brought to patients in the UK from overseas and to be transported to patients all around the world.
RECRUITED STAFF COURIERS
Our volunteer couriers are crucial to getting stem cells to patients who need them. However, as many of them needed to shield and self-isolate, we quickly identified and trained some of our staff to be couriers. You can see the work they do on Twitter. We miss our incredible volunteers and look forward to welcoming them back.
ENSURING DONOR AVAILABILITY
We have been working closely with our collection centres to make sure that donation is as safe as ever for our incredible donors who are, quite literally, lifesavers. We have been providing additional support and reassurance where needed and we are now carrying out further screening and testing to ensure the health of our donors and patients. In addition, we have been identifying an alternative UK donor or cord blood unit as a backup, if necessary, for each UK patient. Thank you to the selfless donors who are donating their stem cells in the UK and around the world at this time.
SUPPORTING PATIENTS WHO NEED HELP AND ADVICE
Our Patient Services team do a critical job of guiding patients and their families through the transplant process. As you can imagine demand for support has intensified and we have seen requests for help double during this time. In March alone, we helped over 20,000 patients through our helpline, Clinical Nurse Specialist clinics, webpages, and forums. To ensure we can support those who need us, we have increased our capacity in this area. Our guidance is available on the Anthony Nolan website.
ENSURING THE CONCERNS OF PATIENTS ARE REFLECTED IN NATIONAL GUIDANCE
We have partnered with NHS leaders and senior healthcare professionals across the UK to ensure that transplant centres have access to up-to-date guidelines that reflect the needs of patients. On a daily basis, we are working with decision-makers to troubleshoot issues faced by both patients and staff on the front line. We are also supporting the #everydaycounts campaign, recognising the critical funding challenges the sector faces.
INNOVATING SAFELY TO HELP SUPPORT PATIENTS
Our world-class Labs and Research teams are working to find more innovative ways to continue supporting our patients
- A focus on cord blood provision where possible
- Cryopreservation (freezing stem cells for use when the patient has been conditioned for their transplant)
- Looking at enhanced typing using swabs to speed up our matching process
We have helped our partner, the NHS
Everyday we work in close partnership with the NHS as we are part of the healthcare ecosystem and we are proud to support them in a number of ways:
- We have redeployed our Lead Nurse to work at the Royal Marsden Hospital, to provide extra capacity in stem cell transplantation services.
- We have agreed to loan one of our laboratory machines to aid the effort to increase COVID-19 testing, on request from officials from the Prime Minister’s Office.
- We are partnering with NHS Blood and Transplant to offer a range of services including HLA typing; CMV status; and ABO blood group testing, to transplant centres that may be encountering resource or capacity issues within their own laboratories.
- We have opened up the IMPACT clinical trials infrastructure, of which we are the biggest funder, to a vital COVID-19 study at Great Ormond Street Hospital. This will accelerate it opening nationwide and help to recruit patients. Our investment in IMPACT over the next three months will be £120,000.
- We are exploring how our world-class expertise and infrastructure in relation to bioinformatics and immunogenetics can be deployed to deepen understanding of COVID-19 and its treatment, including a research study exploring the role of HLA.
We have taken steps to secure the financial health of the organisation
With the fundraising environment severely depleted and the pace of delivering stem cells slowed owing to the pandemic, we are experiencing a significant impact on our funding, which is posing a risk to the organisation in the short and long term. We have moved quickly to try and safeguard our financial position to mean we are focusing on the needs of patients today and will be here to support patients in the future. These decisions are not taken lightly, but we have a duty to ensure the legacy of the charity and as a result we have:
- Frozen discretionary spending
- Applied a temporary recruitment freeze for all but business critical roles
- Postponed key fundraising events, and cancelled some activities including the Daisy Ball
- Refocussed our work on the most urgent projects
- Taken the difficult decision to furlough 20% of our workforce
We have also launched an emergency fundraising appeal to help raise critical funds to support our lifesaving works and the extra-ordinary measures we have had to put in place at this time to meet the demands. The response of our supporters to our emergency appeal has been fantastic – we cannot thank you all enough for your donations and fundraising efforts. Never has the phrase from our strategy of “Together, we can” been more true. Without you, there is no cure.
We have supported our people
Supporting our staff and volunteers throughout this period has been fundamental in enabling us to respond in the manner we have over the last few weeks. We do not take for granted the quality and value each and every member of our lifesaving team plays. Our people are at the heart of what we do. We are a community and are passionate about the impact we have each and every day for the patients who look to us for a chance of life when all other hope has gone. Beyond their work for Anthony Nolan, we recognise that our people are individuals whose lives outside of work will have been affected; no one is immune to the impact of the pandemic on their daily lives. Thank you does not come close to expressing our gratitude for all that our community do.
As a result, we have made it a priority to ensure we put the wellbeing of our staff front and centre of everything we look to deliver. We have:
- Asked all staff to work from home where possible since 16 March
- Committed to offering flexible work patterns to suit the new circumstances and needs of our colleagues
- Temporarily suspended cord collection, meaning our cord collectors are adhering to social distancing and shielding guidelines
- Developed staff guidance that is regularly updated based on government announcements and our own research, which is accessible across technical boundaries
- Delivered updates every two days from our coronavirus taskforce meetings, ensuring colleagues are kept up to date with the latest developments
- Developed a suite of wellbeing activities for colleagues, including a remote wellbeing session that was attended by 100 colleagues, delivered by our Mental Health First Aid training providers
- Developed wellbeing resources for colleagues on furlough leave
I am immensely proud of the way everyone has and, undoubtedly, will continue to respond to the ever-changing needs of this pandemic. And we are, like you, having to rethink our plans constantly. However our patients and people, including our supporters and donors, are at the forefront of our minds and you motivate us to think ever more creatively to overcome the challenges of our current situation to ensure we can remain there for patients. Anthony Nolan has some of the most committed people and supporters I have ever worked with and I know we will get through this together.
We will continue to monitor the situation and update our response appropriately. In the meantime, I urge you to continue to follow government guidance and ensure you Stay Home. Support the NHS. Save Lives.
Thank you for your continued commitment to our cause.