Shortly after I started as chief executive of Imperial College Healthcare Charity in late 2014 I met Tim Galloway, a solicitor from Birketts, with a client who had left the bulk of her estate to our charity. Tim told me that the lady had trained as a nurse in the 1950s at St Mary’s in West London, now one of the hospitals in the Imperial NHS Trust; that she had married a consultant colleague and eventually emigrated to Canada. Her husband had died many years earlier and she had invested wisely leaving a sizeable sum to the charity, asking for it to be put towards innovation in surgery and medicine.
Naturally I was curious as to the sum involved, and Tim said that the initial payment would be £2.5m. Recovering from my surprise (I had come from a charity where a legacy of £100,000 was considered huge) I was floored for a second time when he added “and the final payment when we have sorted out the tax should be another £1.4m”! This generous former nurse, who had never forgotten her enjoyment of working at St Mary’s (where we are still based) had left us nearly £4m.
Our charity is one of around 200 hospital charities in Britain, the most well-known of which are Great Ormond Street and the Royal Marsden. We support our NHS Trust through grants, fund-raising for capital appeals, and the management, interpretation and display of a collection of more than 2,000 works of art. Our principal aim is to benefit patients, staff, families and visitors to the five Imperial hospitals and we are there to enhance, not replace, funding from the NHS.
Wanting to respect the benefactor’s wishes as closely as possible, we created a ‘special purpose fund’ for surgical and medical innovation and invited applications from our clinicians. The first grant we have made is £1.1m to an extraordinary project known as ‘Focused Ultrasound’. Professor Wladyslaw Gedroyc, based at St Mary’s, is one of the pioneers of this technique which ‘focuses’ the magnetic waves from a standard MRI scanner to create a beam which can heat tissue to around 55-60° centigrade. This can then treat tumours and similar conditions without surgery or even anaesthesia.
St Mary’s will be the first hospital in the UK to use focused ultrasound to treat patients suffering from the debilitating effects of ‘essential tremor disorder’ and also the tremors caused by Parkinson’s disease, by burning away a tiny part of the brain which causes the tremor. One treatment lasting no more than two hours can eradicate the tremors and so far patients who have been treated in North America, Japan and two centres in Europe where this has been trialled have shown no side effects, whilst the cessation of the tremor has been permanent. Lives have been transformed; where before the treatment patients were unable to dress or feed themselves and were utterly reliant on a carer’s support, now they can lead full and independent lives.
The first patients will be treated at St Mary’s by Professor Gedroyc and his colleagues from April onwards and we will then look for further innovations which we can fund, thanks to this magnificent legacy to the Imperial College Healthcare Charity.
Imperial College Healthcare Charity
The content of this article is for general information only. For further information regarding legacies, please contact Tim Galloway. Law covered as at April 2016.