Health projects urged to dip hands into £1.9m pot

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A CHARITY is appealing for help in spending a £1.9 million pot in the Lothians.

The Edinburgh & Lothians Health Foundation is, for the first time, encouraging groups from outside the NHS to apply for grants of any amount for projects that will improve the health of residents.

Trustees say they will consider everything from grassroots local projects to state-of-the-art equipment or cutting-edge research.

The charity, formerly known as Lothian Health Board Endowment Fund, has been making grants for many years but they were given mostly to projects attached to the NHS for services, facilities and research not covered by state funding.

Director Jane Ferguson said: “The charitable purpose is to improve the health of the people of Scotland and that’s very broad.

“In practice, it often means that it’s just the charity giving money to projects within their NHS organisation for things which are over and above what the state can provide, but our trustees are thinking about things much more laterally and saying ‘Do you know what? We want to open it up’.”

The fund has £65m in assets and investments, of which about two-thirds comprise its general fund. The money in the general fund comes from a variety of sources, many going back decades, such as the charitable hospitals that preceded the formation of the NHS.

It is inviting applications for projects that are not covered by state funding, are designed to improve the health of the population, are innovative, and run for up to two years.

Ms Ferguson said: “I met with one of the trustees the other day to go through the criteria that we have set and it’s terribly exciting. Because we’ve never done this before we’ve no idea what to expect. People have said, ‘Is there a minimum we can apply for, is there a maximum?’, and we’ve said ‘No, we want to just put it out there and see what happens’.

“We suspect they’ll come from three main areas: those that are assisting with acute care in hospitals, the public side, reflecting public education, and then the medical research side.

“It could be that Professor so-and-so has been sitting on a new idea for years but thinks, ‘I’ll never have the money to do it’, then perhaps we can help.”

Colin Murray, development worker with the Edinburgh Voluntary Organisations’ Council, said the scheme would be a boon to the voluntary sector.

He said: “It’s hugely welcome. It’s not bound by particular government priorities or whatever happens to be flavour of the month, but is opening it up to communities to do what they think is important.”

The application form and criteria can be found via the NHS Lothian website at www.nhs lothian.scot.nhs.uk.

The closing date for funding applications is January 31.

sgyford@edinburghnews.com