Raymond Siems and Callum MacBeth, both Griffith Engineering alumni and their team have created a new UK charity called HEROES to support the NHS during the COVID pandemic winning them the Pandemic Service Award from the Royal Academy of Engineering. HEROES was designed to help NHS workers by creating a secure website to provide much-needed support for frontline staff and did so in a matter of days.
During the early stages of the UK’s COVID-19 lockdown, two things became obvious: the NHS needed more support and the public wanted to help. As everyone was required to stay indoors as isolation requirements intensified, it became clear this goodwill needed to be channelled digitally.
Dr Pimenta’s idea for HEROES, the NHS charity founded by and for NHS workers, was quickly supported by former premiership footballer Joe Cole, and the race was on to build a secure and fully functioning website before it was talked about it on primetime TV.
Ravi Solanki, a physician working on neurodegenerative diseases, and Raymond Siems, an engineer working in machine learning, volunteered to fulfil this need. They started building helpthemhelpus.co.uk only 36 hours before Cole appeared on Good Morning Britain to promote the newly launched charity. This website included a crowdfunding page and resources for NHS staff, as well as directing members of the public to NHS-approved COVID-19 information, crucial at the time when misinformation was spreading rapidly.
The website built by the team is, quite simply, breath-taking: it’s simple to use, functional and desperately needed
Along with Raymond, Callum and Ravi the team included Evan Martin and Wilson Griffiths to make the platform more sophisticated and efficient, ensuring it could enable funding, provide counselling and wellbeing services, childcare support and sustainable PPE to NHS workers. The process included building secure end-to-end digital infrastructure to allow NHS workers to apply for and receive financial relief grants digitally. Staff can now submit an application through the HEROES website and, if approved, payments are made directly to their bank account with notifications sent to their NHS email address.
Both Solanki and Siems built the website using GatsbyJS, Netlify, Firebase and introduced a content management system so that non-engineers within the leadership team could more easily update content with resources ranging from mental health resources to ambassador announcements. They also partnered with low-cost payment processor, Banked, to allow members of the public to make donations without paying administrative fees to other platforms.
The teams’s round-the-clock contributions allowed the new charity to tap into public sentiment and collect donations quickly so that NHS workers could receive the support they needed when the COVID-19 crisis was at its peak in the UK. Their technical know-how allowed HEROES to support 90,000 NHS workers in three months. The team’s work to expand the digital platform and support provided to healthcare workers is ongoing.
“The website built by the team is, quite simply, breath-taking: it’s simple to use, functional and desperately needed,” says Dr Charlotte Feinmann, UCL Student Psychological Services. “Thanks to the website, the impact of HEROES has been immense… As a psychiatrist, I particularly recognise the need for mental health support, and think the partnership with Harley Therapy and online secure portal, designed by Ravi and Raymond, is exceptional.”
HEROES was founded by frontline NHS workers for NHS workers. Powered by a network of generous corporations, service providers, and individuals devoted to making support easy to find and easy to provide, the charity is working around the clock to build a permanent platform that will link donors, providers and our NHS staff to one another in this urgent time of need, and beyond. To find out more visit www.helpthemhelpus.co.uk.