An Interview with Peter Walsh – AvMA

How has COVID-19 affected AvMA the charity?

The biggest way that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected AvMA is obviously the effect on the people our charity supports. The toll of death and human misery is enormous and it remains to see how much of this may have been avoidable, in spite of the best efforts of our NHS and the heroic efforts of health and care professionals. As well as people who have been directly affected by the virus, we know that there will be other patients who have suffered or died when they did not have the virus, but whose treatment was not what it should have been because of the strain that everyone has been under coping with the pandemic.

We have already had quite a number of contacts from families in both categories and we are sure to receive many more. Some of the tensions around all of this are articulated in a blog I wrote early in the pandemic, when the knock-on effects were less recognised. This can be found here:

Since then of course the death toll is well over 30,000 and still rising.  However, another way that the charity itself has been directly affected is by lost income as a result of COVID-19. We had to cancel our flagship Annual Clinical Negligence Conference, which was scheduled for June in Bournemouth. This in itself represents a huge loss of income this year. In addition to that, a variety of fundraising events including the popular curry nights around the country in conjunction with PIC have had to be cancelled, and some of the law firms on whose support we rely, have been struggling.

In spite of this, and the effects of lock-down meaning all of our staff are working from home, we have decided not to furlough any staff so that we can maintain all of our core services such as our helpline and casework services for injured patients or their families going, as well as our support services to lawyers specialising in clinical negligence and our policy and campaigning work. This is making a big dent in our charitable reserves which we can sustain in the short term, but of course we like everyone else are nervous about what the future may have in store.

What changes have you had to implement as a result?

Fortunately, we have invested in IT in recent years and a number of our staff already had experience of working from home, so the switch to home working has gone incredibly smoothly. We are immensely grateful to our wonderful helpline volunteers who have continued to volunteer for us in spite of the difficulties experienced by them personally or the firms they work for.

Our conference team worked swiftly and incredibly hard to re-arrange dates for the Annual Clinical Negligence Conference (ACNC) and other conferences which had to be cancelled and have created the capacity to deliver virtual events, such as the “not the ACNC” event in June, see link below:

Like a lot of people, we have had to adapt quickly not only to working from home but to working more smartly with IT. So much so that things are unlikely to be the same again even when the crisis is over. I for one will not be so quick to agree to travel here there and everywhere for meetings if they can be carried out via Zoom or other platforms. There will always be the need for some face to face meetings however. With the best will in the world a virtual curry night just would not be the same!

What support can be given to AvMA during this time?

We are grateful for the ongoing support we receive from individual lawyers and others working in the field of clinical negligence. We are conscious that many law firms and others in the sector as well as their employees are struggling themselves.

One of the best ways that law firms can help us at no cost to themselves is to make AvMA the recipient of unclaimed client monies as allowed for in the SRA rules. We appreciate that firms may already have some charities who they support in this way, but if the case can be made to partners to support AvMA in this way, this year or next year it would be a godsend to us. If this was annually or even every other year it would be even better and give us the confidence that we have ongoing income we can plan for.

Another way to support us is (when circumstances permit) is to put on a local fundraising event for us (with our support) or for individuals to raise funds through sponsored events like runs or other activities. Again, we can help make this easy for you.

We are also very keen to get as many of our individual supporters to sign up to be a ‘Friend of AvMA’ by making a monthly donation of as little as £5 a month. See link below:

As we are such a specialist charity we find it harder than most good causes to raise funds, so the support from the people who understand the value of the charity is vitally important to us, and we are extremely grateful for it!

For further information about any of the ways you can help please contact:

Peter Walsh
Chief Executive – 
Action against Medical Accidents (AvMA)

Follow Peter on Twitter: @PeterWalshAvMA