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The future’s Bright for charity and art in our health service

Friday, 07 June, 2019
The future’s Bright for charity and art in our health service

In the latest in our series of looks behind the curtain of our local NHS, we meet Katie Dawson, charity and arts development officer for Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

When you think of the NHS you don’t necessarily think charity – less so art – but you’d be wrong.

Many if not most NHS bodies have charitable arms charged with raising extra funds and improving the care patients receive.

Northumbria Healthcare is lucky to have one of the best: Bright Northumbria.

Katie spent 10 years working in the museum and gallery sector, including a stint at one of the world’s best, the British Museum in London, before joining the NHS 10 years ago.

Now back in her native North East in a role encompassing fund-raising, event management, artist/historian, curator and manager, she is passionate about the role that charity – and art – can play in the modern NHS:

Katie said: “I was inspired to make the move because I believe in the power art to inspire, motivate and heal – and that everyone deserves equal access to it.

The NHS is known the world over for outstanding patient care but how an individual experiences that care; the atmosphere, the sights and sounds around them – it all matters.

“Thanks to our art programme – often working with local artists or even schools – our hospitals benefit from an environment and atmosphere that isn’t focused on sickness but rather on beauty and wellbeing.

“That may sound like an optional extra but it really isn’t.

“People are not machines and need to be treated as such; art is critical to that.”

Katie also helps to raise funds – £800,000 and counting – for a range of other things. Including, but not limited to, specialist equipment, hospital refurbishment, gardens, live music for patients and, training for NHS staff.

There’s also a Christmas programme featuring both schools and sports teams.

If you’ve set foot in a Northumbria Healthcare hospital then chances are that you’ve touched, seen or been treated by the work that Katie and her team do.

“One of the best things about the job is that I get to meet some amazing people who fund-raise for us. I also get to see first-hand the difference that can make,” she said.

“For instance, when you take music onto an elderly care ward you can see the patients respond, reliving past memories and enjoying the moment.”

As for the hardest? Choosing.

“The worst thing is that we can’t say yes to everyone. I have to say no to some fantastic people and wonderful causes and it can be really difficult.

“That said it does provide the motivation to raise even more the next day – we have 100 runners in the Great North Run this year for instance.

“The work never stops!”