Community wind farm charity Point and Sandwick Trust this week made the biggest one-off donation in its history – and it went to NHS Western Isles, in recognition of the heroism of frontline staff and to support islanders suffering during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The charity, which owns the largest community-owned wind farm in the UK in terms of output and reinvests all its income back in the local community, made a donation of £40,000. It is the first grant awarded from Point and Sandwick Trust’s newly set up pandemic community fund, announced last month, and NHS Western Isles is now looking at best ways to spend it.

The money is to be mainly used to support frontline staff and Covid-19 patients and will hopefully also benefit cancer patients. Frontline staff are to be consulted about ideas and a member of staff within NHS Western Isles has been tasked with leading the decision-making process.

Initial ideas include therapeutic pamper packs for frontline staff, including some local products so the money can be reinvested in island businesses, and emergency items for patients who are admitted in a rush, without personal belongings and without the possibility of receiving them later on from a friend or relative, due to the ban on visitors. Emergency admission items could include nightwear, underwear, toiletries, phone chargers and other essentials.

Consideration is also being given to upgrading rest areas for frontline staff and to funding access to external counsellors for staff struggling with the impacts of the pandemic.

If funds allow, some money could also be used to bolster the budget for cancer patients, including island patients in hospitals on the mainland who have been cut off from the family visits that would normally be a source of emotional and physical support.

However, these are all preliminary ideas and NHS Western Isles stressed staff would be very much involved in the decision making.  

NHS Western Isles chief executive Gordon Jamieson said: “We have been overwhelmed and humbled by the generosity of businesses, organisations and individuals across our local communities, who have demonstrated such kindness and have pulled together to help at the toughest time we have faced in the history of the health service.

“The donation from the Point and Sandwick Trust was completely unexpected but so incredibly generous. I would like to thank the Trust on behalf of our staff and the health board. We will be involving our staff in deciding how to make the best demonstrable use of this very kind gesture.”

Point and Sandwick Trust board member Agnes Munro – a retired Accident and Emergency nurse, pioneer of an innovative system of nurse-led A&E care, and former winner of the Scottish NHS Manager of the Year award – spoke about the decision to award the money to NHS Western Isles.

Agnes said: “The PST board are delighted to be able to help in this way, in what is an awful time of crisis. We’re aware that there are situations where patients are admitted to hospital unexpectedly and don’t have the essential items that would normally be considered required for hospital. We’re also conscious of the huge pressures the staff are under and it would be good to think that some of the funds could be channelled towards helping maintain their physical and mental health, and of course there are also non-covid patients such as cancer patients who will also have needs.

“These are all situations the Point and Sandwick Trust board considered when deciding to award the money to NHS Western Isles but of course it will be entirely at the discretion of the health board to use this money as it sees fit.”

Announcing the creation of the fund last month, Calum Macdonald, the former MP for the Western Isles who is also the development manager for Point and Sandwick Trust, said the Point and Sandwick Trust board had decided to devote “all the income that isn’t already committed to key local organisations like Bethesda to support the community effort we are going to need to get through the pandemic.”

He added: “Whatever happens, we will have to pull together to help each other and also to help the fantastic health and care workers we have in these islands to tackle this virus.”

Point and Sandwick Trust’s biggest ongoing financial commitment is to Bethesda Care Home and Hospice. It has committed a total of £55,000 to Bethesda every year for 25 years – the lifetime of the turbines at Beinn Ghrideag. The money to Bethesda is paid in two instalments each year.