Chichester Friends ‘deeply disappointed’ to lose hospital shop contract

Some of the Friends of Chichester Hospitals volunteers outside its shop in St Richard's
Some of the Friends of Chichester Hospitals volunteers outside its shop in St Richard's

The Friends of Chichester Hospitals volunteers say they are ‘deeply disappointed’ by a decision which will see them lose their popular shop at St Richard’s Hospital.

It follows Friday’s announcement that the Compass Group has been awarded a major contract to take over the shop and catering facilities at St Richard’s, Worthing and Southlands Hospitals, a move which will see Costa and DeliMarche move in http://www.chichester.co.uk/news/health/hospitals-hand-out-major-new-catering-contract-1-7687065

The popular trolley service is now under threat, the Friends said

The popular trolley service is now under threat, the Friends said

“The Friends of Chichester Hospitals, and our colleague charities Friends of Worthing Hospital and the League of Friends of Southlands Hospital are deeply disappointed by the decision of Western Sussex NHS Foundation Trust to award a contract to a commercial provider for the retail spaces currently occupied by the Friends,” chairman Jane Ramage said.

“We have served the needs of our hospitals and their patients, staff and visitors efficiently and caringly for almost 70 years.

“The Friends came into being because of local community loyalty to our hospitals, drawing volunteers from these communities, using local suppliers and raising funds for our hospitals.

“The Trust announcement has come after almost five months of uncertainty for the Friends, during which the Trust has pursued a commercial tender process, while keeping open the option of retaining the status quo.

St Richard's Hospital in Chichester, where Costa and other brands will soon be moving in

St Richard's Hospital in Chichester, where Costa and other brands will soon be moving in

“It is not clear why the Trust chose to include the Friends’ shops in the tender process, given that there has never been any suggestion from the Trust that our tailored offer of products, profitability or our standard of service has been unsatisfactory.

“Due to the structure of the tender the Friends were unable to bid for our existing facilities, but offered to redevelop our shops and frontages if the Trust agreed to maintain the status quo.”

Mrs Ramage added that the dedicated team of 90 volunteers have continued to operate a normal service since the contract was put out to tender in early July, ‘in spite of inevitable anxiety and the sense that the thousands of unpaid hours they have given annually, and the funds they have raised, have not been recognised and valued by Trust management in the tender process’.

She spoke to the trustees’ pride at the loyalty and determination its volunteers have shown during a difficult time, and said its services would run as normally as possible until Compass takes over.

She said: “All of the Friends’ shops and cafes have been run successfully and profitably for decades.

“Substantial annual profits have been returned in their entirety to the respective hospitals each year, plus additional funds raised through donations, events, and legacies.

“In the last ten years, the three Friends’ charities combined have annually donated equipment costing approximately £800,000 to £1,000,000 to our hospitals.

“The Trust has announced that its chosen provider, Compass Group UK and Ireland, will provide £450K each year and that the first instalment will help to fund imaging and ultrasound equipment for St Richard’s and Worthing Hospitals.

“In view of our record of funding, we are surprised that the Friends have not been approached for funding for this project, and indeed have received unusually few requests for support in the last 12 months, despite continued openness to applications as usual.”

Mrs Ramage said the announcement placed the future viability of the hugely popular daily ward trolley service in doubt.

She said: “At St Richard’s Hospital the Friends’ shop has occupied its main entrance location for over 20 years and the team has developed its carefully tailored stock to ensure that all possible needs may be met for patients, visitors and staff.

“There are some 90 Friends volunteers, stacking shelves, pushing the trolley, helping vulnerable customers.

“This decision has come as a heavy blow to the men and women who put their hearts into serving the needs of others, helping to lighten the strain of illness upon countless patients and their families.”

The hospitals trust has promised suitable alternative space ‘in the heart of the hospital’ to run its retail shop in the hope that the Friends trolley service will continue.

From a survey and petition of more than 5,000 people, more than 99 per cent responded to say they did not wish to see any change.

“We would like to thank the many people who have expressed their appreciation and respect for the work of the Friends and especially of our shop volunteers and staff who have continued through this lengthy and difficult process to deliver a professional and genuinely friendly service to all our customers,” Mrs Ramage said.

She added: “The present trustees and volunteers will continue to put patients first, as the charity has always done.”

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