Adapting services to stay operational and support the NHS frontline

Helen Haskell
Corporate Partnerships Manager | Wallace & Gromit's Grand Appeal
8th June 2020
Member roleInitiative member

Like many other members of Business West Chambers of Commerce, over the past few months we have found ourselves in a very challenging place.

Almost overnight, our forecast income streams were stripped from underneath us as fundraising events were cancelled and the doors to our Gromit Unleashed shop were firmly closed. And, as the nation focussed on protecting the most at-risk groups – the elderly and vulnerable adults – donations to children’s causes began to fall.  

Despite this, as the Bristol Children’s Hospital charity it was our duty to step up and stand side by side with the hospital. The sick babies and children in the hospital, and their families, needed us more than ever. It is with thanks to the support we have received over the years, from Business West members and our wider supporter base, that we have been able to continue to provide our much-needed services. 

Now, as lockdown guidance begins to ease, we are drawing lessons from the last few months to plan for the new post-pandemic world and shape our operations for the future. A position, I am sure, many of you find yourselves in.  

  • When lockdown began, most hotels and other accommodation providers were forced to close, so our three family accommodation houses became the lifeline for parents enabling them to stay close to their child in hospital. By increasing hygiene practices, limiting office opening hours, running minimal staff rotas and scaling up our housekeeping, we’ve continued provision for over 50 families to stay together including Robbie and Katrina from Swindon whose baby daughter was born at just 23 weeks.
  • With a direct supply line through our Gromit Unleashed figurine suppliers in Hong Kong, we easily sourced PPE included masks and gloves. The situation in Hong Kong is politically uncomfortable but despite this, they are continuing to support us, free of charge, to enable us to continue our work. 
  • Like many others, our Family Support Practitioners introduced socially distanced family guidance and video conferencing to limit face-to-face contact where possible, while still providing vital emotional and practical support. 
  • We also stepped up to fund vital Covid-19 research carried out by the Emergency Department at Bristol Children’s Hospital in partnership with the University of Bristol, to directly help in the fight against this pandemic and keep the hospital, and the city, at the forefront of international research and development.  
  • The hospital play team interact with patients every day, including those in long term isolation due to cancer treatment.  This important work never stops.  Every member of The Grand Appeal play team stepped up with increased PPE, a real willingness to continue to support patients and help the children become accustomed to the changes around them, through play.  
  • The Grand Appeal research nurses re-directed their focus to the frontline in the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit to ensure their talents were used to support where support was needed the most –helping patients through the most critical part of their time in hospital.  

Going forward, our direct services for the patients and families in Bristol Children’s Hospital will continue. We will make sure of that, whatever the future holds.   

But beyond that, with over 10 million people on furlough or the self-employed equivalent, the government overspending by c. £2.5bn per day and the retail and hospitality sectors under severe pressure, we are all looking forward to getting back to work and playing our part in the country’s recovery.  

From 15 June we are reopening our fundraising office, one team at a time as we get accustomed to the new way of working. With a small office, normally full to the brim with staff and volunteers, we are having to limit access to a maximum of four.  We are also re-opening our Gromit Unleashed shop at The Mall at Cribbs Causeway.  We have been working to ensure that staff and customers are socially distanced. All our staff will be provided with masks and we are increasing the hand sanitising operations throughout. Naturally, this means that some staff and volunteers will continue to work remotely.  Like many other businesses, and even the Cabinet meetings, we started on Zoom but quickly moved to Microsoft Teams.  It’s worked well, and will influence how we run the office in the future.  

Like many other organisations, our income has taken a major hit.  That said, we would not be where we are without the fantastic support of many local businesses, supporters and our wider fundraising base. However, we have to change our strategy if we are to make up the lost ground.  Whilst we have raised £100,000 through our emergency appeal, expanded our online shop, made the most of the Government schemes available to us and, will continue to introduce new fundraising initiatives over the coming weeks to maintain our services, we cannot make up for the millions of pounds fundraising would have generated over the course of this financial year.  

On Friday 19 June, we’ll take our next step into a new era of fundraising by hosting a virtual Wrong Trousers Day – asking people to don their wackiest, most wonderful trousers regardless of where they – at work, school or working from home.    

Like everyone, we hope that the economy will pick up sooner rather than later and its certainly too early to be confident that the latest small increases in the FTSE will help it to recover to pre-pandemic levels in the near future. However, our income is reliant on the thousands of people in Bristol and the South West whose children could one day be under the care of the excellent, and caring work of the doctors and nurses at Bristol Children’s Hospital.  

If you would be interested in talking through our approach, sharing best practice tips or are interested to know how your organisation can support the patients, families and staff at the hospital please don’t hesitate to contact me by e-mailing  

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