Simplyhealth: founded on giving

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Charitable giving is part of our DNA”, says Simplyhealth’s Kate Thornton

“Simplyhealth is founded on giving, charitable giving is part of our DNA. It is built into the foundations of the company and is part of what makes us what we are. Charitable giving is written into our original Articles of Association (our legal constitution) meaning it is part and parcel of who we are and how we do business.”

Kate Thornton (top) Simplyhealth’s Chief Customer Officer, was talking to Dental Review on a blazing hot summer’s day in the company’s Andover offices. On the ground floor staff members were engaged in selecting the charity they wanted to support with donations from their monthly salary.

To a reasonable limit the company would match any donations they made, doubling the impact. We would learn that “impact” is an important concept in the Simplyhealth charitable giving philosophy. It is not enough to make random donations to good causes, support must be seen to be effective, to make a real difference.

Kate provided a fine example of how this works. Simplyhealth provided funding to the Royal Voluntary Service in Swindon. The aim was to help tender care for the elderly people of Swindon after they had been discharged from Basingstoke hospital.

Shockingly 90% of these people had previously been readmitted to hospital because they were left to themselves and couldn’t cope. Through the support of the Royal Voluntary Service the situation was reversed and now just 7% of elderly discharged patients will be readmitted. Funding had been running low when Simplyhealth stepped in to help.

This work has proved so cost-effective that local authorities in Swindon have since taken it up, freeing Simplyhealth and the Royal Voluntary Service to consider new initiatives.

Enlightened care

Kate continued: “Simplyhealth is a company with mutual values and with but one aim that has been ongoing since 1872, a time before the NHS was begun and when healthcare was almost entirely provided to the well-off.

“We were founded using what would today be called crowdfunding and employer support to help deliver access to affordable healthcare for those in need and have continued to work with enlightened care providers for 146 years.

“Back then unspent cash surpluses – what today would be called profit – would be donated to help sustain charities that ran local hospitals.

“Today, 10% of our annual adjusted pre-tax profits go to charity, and in 2017 that amounted to £1.13 million. Many companies donate to charity, but we want our charitable giving to help address health issues that we care about. It would be too easy to dole out money without measuring the donation’s value. Simplyhealth is a purpose-driven company – we need to see how that support works in practice.

What does this mean in practice? Roger Cotton, Head of Charitable Giving for Simplyhealth (above with Corporate Giving Manager Wendy Cummins) outlined the key focus areas for 2017-19. “We are large enough to recognise national trends, and respond at a UK-wide level, but we are also dedicated to working at a local level to provide support for our community.

“Nationally we are aware of the need to address the implications for health and social care inherent in an ageing population. Carers too need support in supporting their dependents and help towards making the most of their lives through better everyday health.

“Dental health is also a core focus – particularly during the early years when education about prevention can make such a huge difference. And also, in supporting people with musculoskeletal conditions and mental health problems – although not severe or acute disabilities.

“At a local level we have identified three main issues through local stakeholder dialogue, and in 2018 we donated £140,000 to three local charities to help address the isolation and loneliness suffered by the elderly, coupled with their lack of activity and the issues arising there. We are also funding an initiative to support work around youth mental health problems.”

Teeth Team and the Great Run Series

Simplyhealth Professionals’ Chief Dental Officer, Dr Henry Clover (above) also raised the problem of mental health, but this time regarding dental professionals.

He said: “The pressures of professional and personal life can take its toll on dentists and the dental team, whatever their circumstances. While coping strategies are well known and embedded within contemporary thinking around maintaining health, any of us could need additional help at some point in our lives.

“Addictive problems and mental health issues are by no means unique to our profession and there is hard evidence that incidences of the latter are increasing. We are fortunate in our profession to have such a truly excellent service as the Dentists’ Health Support Programme, yet some colleagues are unaware of its existence. Our aim is to raise awareness of the programme and support its further development.

“This year we awarded DHSP a grant of £56,000 to help recruit more associates to provide counselling support for dentists experiencing mental health and addiction issues, and to raise awareness of the service amongst all 40,000 members of the profession.”

Kate took up the story once more: “Nothing reflects our commitment to impactful charitable giving than our two key donations, Teeth Team, and the Simplyhealth Great Run Series. Teeth Team has had an amazing impact since it was founded in 2010 in Hull to improve the oral health of children in the UK’s most socially deprived communities.

“We have invested £217,000 to fund Teeth Team’s expansion across the country, and our member dentists will be proactively involved in delivering the programme. This initiative is a great way to provide hard evidence to five-to nine-year-olds that prevention and an effective oral health regime works.

“Our partnership with Teeth Team saw us shortlisted for three Corporate Engagement Awards. We won gold for best Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activity or programme to support or develop corporate reputation, and a bronze for best alignment of brand values during a CSR programme. We also won bronze for best charity, non-government organisation or not-for-profit programme.

“All of us are proud of the recognition this brings and how it reflects on Teeth Team’s amazing work. As the project expands we will use hard evidence arising from their work to lobby government to use the money saved – thanks to the work by Teeth Team – to help the NHS fund further expansion of the project to more schools, or set-up a centrally funded national programme.

“And finally, we have chosen Mind to be our nominated charity for the 2018 Great Run Series. We recognise that being active helps both mental and physical health, and money raised will help fund Mind’s vital work, including its Mind Infoline, information and advice services, and its campaign to secure a better deal for the one in four of us who experience mental health problems every year.”

To discover more about Simplyhealth’s charitable giving visit: https://www.simplyhealth.co.uk/sh/pages/about-us/charitable-giving.jsp 

To see the local Winchester Community Fund for smaller, local projects, go to: https://www.denplan.co.uk/about-denplan/denplan-community-fund