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Friends’ dismay at NHS change

HOSPITAL patients from Bognor Regis and Chichester could be left without a bedside trolley service, volunteers have warned.


The Friends of Chichester Hospitals says the service is under threat because its shop by the main entrance to St Richard’s will become a commercial outlet under a new contract awarded by NHS officials.


Friends’ chairman Jane Ramage said the group’s members – and their colleagues at Worthing and Southlands hospitals – had been left deeply disappointed by the decision.


“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 (NHS) trust has stated that it will make suitable alternative space available for the Friends to relocate our retail shop ‘in the heart of the hospital’ and that it hopes the trolley service will continue.


“Although this process has been running for five months, we have yet to learn what space in the ‘heart’ of St Richard’s is envisaged,” she said.


“Concern remains regarding the future viability of the Friends’ daily ward trolley service, which we know is a highlight of the day for most patients, if a full high quality shop service as at present cannot be replicated to support it.”


The Friends’ shop had been in place for more than 20 years and its stock was tailored to ensure all the possible needs of patients, visitors and staff was met, said Mrs Ramage.


That popularity was shown by the thousands of supporters who had signed petitions which backed the Friends. Despite the uncertainty, Mrs Ramage paid tribute to the dedication of the 90 Friends’ helpers who had continued to stack shelves and push the trolley in recent months.


She pledged the charity would continue to put patients first as it had done since 1948. Donations to all three hospitals – partly from the shops and cafes – totalled £800,000-£1m in the past ten years.


Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust has awarded the retail catering contract to Compass Group. It said this would lead to improve services.


Costa Coffee would be available with pastries and pannines from DeliMarche, a full-service Spice of Life restaurant and convenience retailer Amigo.


The contract would see a £1.1m investment in the hospitals’ main entrances and a further £450,000 a year for patient services.


Trust director of facilities and estates David Jones said: “We’ll be improving the availability of and choice of food and drink within our hospitals while securing additional funding for services and equipment.”

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