The expanding phenomenon of crowdfunding for healthcare creates novel potential roles for members of the public as fundraisers and donors of particular forms of provision. While sometimes interpreted as an empowering phenomenon (Gonzales et al., 2018), or a potentially useful communication of unmet needs (Saleh et al., 2021), scholars have predominantly been critical of the way in which crowdfunding for healthcare normalises unmet needs and exacerbates entrenched inequalities (Berliner and Kenworthy, 2017; Igra et al., 2021; Paulus and Roberts, 2018). We report a thematic analysis of the text of 945 fundraising appeals created on JustGiving and GoFundMe in the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic, where the recipient was NHS Charities Together's dramatically successful COVID-19 Urgent Appeal. Unlike in existing accounts of individual healthcare crowdfunding, we identify the relative absence of both coherent problem definition and of a fundable solution within the pages. Instead, appeals are dominated by themes of solidarity and duty during the UK's 'hard' lockdown of 2020. A national appeal reduces the risks of crowdfunding exacerbating existing health inequalities, but we argue that two kinds of non-financial consequences of collective crowdfunding require further exploration. Specifically, we need to better understand how expanded practices of fundraising co-exist with commitment to dutiful, means-based funding of healthcare via taxation. We must also attend to how celebration of the NHS as a national achievement, might squeeze spaces for critique and challenge. Analyses of crowdfunding need to explore both financial and non-financial aspects of practices within different health system and historical contexts.

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Stewart, E., Nonhebel, A., Möller, C. & Bassett, K. 2022, 'Doing 'our bit': solidarity, inequality, and COVID-19 crowdfunding for the UK National Health Service', Social Science and Medicine, 308, article no: 115214. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2022.115214

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Last updated: 27 July 2022
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