A survey circulated by the Friends charities that provide services at three Sussex hospitals has received an ‘overwhelmingly positive’ response from the public.
Last month, Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Southlands in Shoreham, Worthing Hospital and St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester, confirmed it had invited professional catering providers and retailers to put forward proposals to run the shops, as well as its in-house visitor restaurants, as part of a review into improving services.
The Friends invited people to complete a survey about their experience in the Friends’ shops, prompting an ‘overwhelming number of positive responses’ which left them ‘amazed and heartened’.
In a statement, the Friends of Chichester hospitals said: “Such support and appreciation means a great deal to the volunteers who dedicate their time to helping patients and staff as well as visitors, and give a professional level of service with kindness and empathy.
“The survey results show a very high level of customer satisfaction with the range of goods on offer in the Friends shop, and especially with the fact that all profits go back to the hospital through the purchase of much-needed medical equipment.
“Customers recognise that the shop is integral both to the hospital community and the wider community.”
According to the statement, when customers were asked whether they would prefer a high street name to be running the shop, 387 of the 388 respondents responded ‘no’.
Jane Ramage, chairman of Friends of Chichester hospitals, said: “We felt we ought to do the survey to check that we had understood the situation properly.
“Overwhelmingly the response has been that people are happy with the service.”
A separate online petition, started by a member of the public, has amassed more than 950 signatures in less than two weeks.
Paul Haddacks from Chichester wrote on the petition: “The hospital shop provides a brilliant service that goes out of its way to respond to and meet patient needs. It also provides an indispensable ward trolley service.
“100 per cent of its profits are donated to the hospital and its overheads are very low as it is wholly managed and staffed by volunteers.
“It is impossible to see how a commercial organisation, paying staff and motivated by profit, can begin to do as much for the hospital as the current arrangement does.”
Shirley Farmer from Emsworth wrote: “The caring nature and friendliness of the volunteers provides a welcome distraction from an otherwise difficult time for patients and their families.”
A statement issued by the two Friends groups and the Friends of Chichester Hospitals earlier this month said: “We are concerned that there is a risk that some services may not continue if the Friends shops are closed, and indeed there is also concern that the Friends of Southlands Hospital would cease to exist.
“It is hoped that people will express their support for the Friends’ charities directly to the Trust, by writing to Mike Viggers, Chairman, Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust, at either Worthing Hospital, Lyndhurst Road, Worthing BN11 2DH, or at St Richard’s Hospital, Spitalfield Lane, Chichester, PO19 6SE.”
David Jones, director of estates, facilities & capital at the trust, said: “At Western Sussex Hospitals we are committed to improving everything we do for our patients, visitors and staff, which is why we spent the last year reviewing our retail catering services at St Richard’s, Worthing and Southlands hospitals.
“We are keen to explore the potential for longer opening hours, provision of more choice, healthier options and improved financial returns.
“Currently, the trust runs its visitor restaurants at a loss and, unlike many other hospitals, we do not generate direct income from commercial activities taking place in our main entrances.
“With NHS funding under ever-increasing pressure, we have a duty in the future to make sure we receive the best value from these services, in order that it can be reinvested directly into patient care.
“Our retail catering review explores a range of options, including maintaining the status quo, as well as inviting professional caterers and the Friends organisations to submit proposals to run the services, explaining what the additional benefits for visitors, staff and the trust could be.
“We greatly appreciate the dedication of our Friends’ organisations and the many volunteers who give so generously of their time, and we remain committed to working with them for the benefit of our patients and staff.”
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