Five facts about healthcare professionals and charities

Image of doctor giving advice

Five facts about healthcare professionals and charities

Drawing from research working with healthcare professionals, here are five things they think about the third sector- and insight into what this means for charities.
Heather Sturgess

We’ve been doing research with healthcare professionals for over 10 years and wanted to share with you some interesting facts that we have discovered over this time. The statistics included in this blog are from our research with GPs, GPs with commissioning roles, community nurses and nurses based in a GP practice, as well as from our research with the general public.

1) Three quarters of primary healthcare professionals see the charity sector as a force for good in the NHS

Healthcare professionals are positive about the contributions that charities make through providing additional support and filling in the gaps.

"it can 'bridge the gap' where the NHS can't fill with financial constraints."


- Community nurse


Healthcare professionals also mentioned the tough time pressures that they are under and how charities can help ameliorate this. One GP mentioned how in their ten-minute appointment they might not have enough time to cover all aspects of a new diagnosis, so they find patient information leaflets an excellent resource.

For those curious about the a quarter of healthcare professionals who didn’t agree that charities are a force for good in the NHS, it is not that they saw charities as a negative influence but rather that they were unsure about the impact charities make. For example, a community nurse noted that charities can be “limited to areas”, and a GP with a commissioning role was concerned that some areas might be promoted disproportionately.

2) Healthcare professionals think charities are well placed to provide emotional support to patients

In 2014 we asked healthcare professionals who they thought should be providing emotional support. 77% said the voluntary sector, compared to 60% saying the public sector and only ¼ the private sector. This is in tune with wider attitudes, as the general public see emotional support, such as helplines and support groups, as something that national charities, local charities, and local authorities should be responsible for providing.

This reflects comments from healthcare professionals in our survey, who said that research and support from charities was vital to their work because of the additional services that would not have been available otherwise, and the independence that charities can give patients.

"Provides services that might not be available otherwise."


- GP

3) Nearly half of the GPs and nurses we surveyed said they don't feel equipped to provide patients with the information they need on mental health

Approximately 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem each year, so it’s crucial that healthcare professionals feel prepared to provide information and advice to patients.

However, mental health was one of the conditions that they felt least equipped to deal with. Healthcare professionals said they want more information about local support groups and the emotional support available for patients with mental health problems.

In previous research, we found that mental health care was considered by primary health care professionals to be the most insufficiently funded area out of a list of 15 different services, with only 14% of respondents satisfied with levels of funding in this area. This further underlines the importance of the services offered by charities.

4) Healthcare professionals appreciate the range of ways in which information can be accessed

When we asked GPs and nurses for the reasons why charities have impressed them, a common theme which they valued was the support that charities provided to their patients, as well as the information and advice that they offer. There were lots of different forms of communications mentioned such as websites, leaflets, networks and guidelines. Age UK and Diabetes UK were specifically mentioned by GPs for the information and advice on their website, and one GP was particularly impressed by British Heart Foundation’s “free in-depth information leaflets for patients”.

5) 'High quality services' and 'delivers good outcomes for patients' are the top priorities for commissioners

GPs with CCG/CSU roles are a key audience for charities who are looking to get services commissioned. We have asked about their top priorities when it comes to deciding which organisations to commission. In 2018, as in 2017, the high quality of the service was one of the top priorities for commissioners. Delivering good outcomes for patients was also considered a high priority, followed by responsive and timely delivery. An important concern for charities working in this area is how GPs with commissioning roles perceive your organisation against these top priorities.

Charities should also give thought to the areas healthcare professionals want to hear more from them about, whether healthcare professionals feel comfortable providing information on your key conditions and what services they associate your organisation as working on.

If you'd like to learn more about how healthcare professionals perceive your charity and our research with healthcare professionals, please contact Heather Sturgess at

You can also share your thoughts on this topic in the comments section, located beneath the purple download form.

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