Recent weeks have seen me indulging myself in writing blogs about my amazing time working at this Charity. Today it seems appropriate, as we mark the anniversary of the first and most dramatic lockdown, to remember March 2020 to March 2021. It will also give me the perfect excuse to talk about the Charity team – this is a group of people who came together quite simply, to make it work.

Personal memories include walking alongside a completely deserted dual carriageway, listening to the birds and noticing, as if for the first time, blossom and emerging leaves. I have had an allotment for many years, but being able to get to it straight after work because all I had to do was walk the five minutes from my house to the allotment opened up a whole new world of growing possibilities.

Work was completely transformed. Following the confidence and determination of Director of Fundraising Ashley Westpfel, we launched an emergency appeal to support our two hospitals as very poorly patients started to arrive. The first patient arrived on Wednesday 17 March and little did we know what lay ahead of us.

Easter weekend was the spike. Our fantastic NHS colleagues made instant, and clever decisions to enable more spaces to take some of the most poorly patients coming from other hospitals all over London and the South East. Clinicians stayed in local hotels because back to back 12 hour shifts made it impossible to go home. You know the rest – the fight for PPE, the wondering what was round the corner and then the gifts that started to come in from people and companies who just wanted to help. Fresh food, hot food, hand cream, chocolates, flowers, coffee, bananas and more.

Back to the Charity team. Work hours became meaningless as donors got in touch at any time to give money, and gifts. We learned zoom and teams and organised home offices on kitchen tables and attics. With events being cancelled, the Charity team moved into a new phase to ensure we could continue to fundraise and stay in touch with our loyal supporters and our NHS colleagues.

The following months saw Ashley, Sal, Lisa, Raf and Rhianne organise a quiz, bingo, an appeal launch, an amazing Hearts versus Lungs, an online Carol Concert and a virtual wine tasting. They were helped of course, by other members of the Charity team, Alastair, Hannah, Zahra, Camilla, Jane, and Kelvin.

We were thrilled to be able to tell our donors and friends about what was happening at our two hospitals via a very special interview with broadcaster and journalist Mishal Husain. Later in the year, we examined the medical and communication changes which this pandemic had introduced into all our lives in a fascinating zoom discussion hosted by Jonathan Dimbleby.

The Charity’s property portfolio, which provides valuable income to support many vital hospital projects (notably research), could have gone into free fall with people leaving London and offices deserted. Stewart and his team, Karen, Nicky and Tanya, adapted to the ever changing situation and kept the portfolio working during these extraordinary times.

You, our donors, volunteers, sponsors, celebrities and stayed with us. Some of you joined us for the first time – and we cannot thank you all enough. We even had royalty alongside us as His Royal Highness the Earl of Wessex and Her Royal Highness Princess Eugenie sent warm and moving messages of support for our hospital colleagues to show how we were thinking of them.

This remarkable year has seen us buy equipment from scanners to ventilators and from ultrasounds to iPads. Donations have funded ground breaking research into Covid-19. NHS staff have been supported through wellness programmes. Thank you for making that happen. And a huge thank you to our NHS colleagues for all that you have done and will do. We will never forget this year.