VOLUNTEERS in their 80s who have spent more than 20 years helping at Southlands Hospital have been told they are no longer wanted by the British Red Cross.
The team of 19 Red Cross volunteers at the Shoreham hospital were told last Friday that the service was being withdrawn, as the charity turns its focus to disaster work.
Although the team has been told they can become hospital trust volunteers and carry on the same role, they say that is not the point.
Mrs Vera Bloxam, 85, speaking on behalf of the team at Southlands, said: “It was an awful shock. We are all volunteers. We do it all because we enjoy it and we all have been so dedicated.
“We have covered every out-patient session, so there are always two or three on duty at any one time.
“We are all of the same mind. We are terribly disappointed at the decision. I think several may carry on with the trust but I think there will be equally as many that will say no, that is the end.”
She has been with the Red Cross for 71 years and at Southlands for 36 years. A year ago, she received a long-service badge for her dedication.
“I can’t understand why the Red Cross have decided to do it,” she added. “I will retire at then end of November when this finishes.
“They are asking if we would go on to the hospital trust. I won’t out of principle, because I feel I have been dedicated to the Red Cross.”
The service has been running at Southlands for 40 years but the Red Cross closed its Shoreham office two years ago.
Mrs Bloxam said: “Miss Robina Methben, who was our liason, has been treated very badly.
“I feel that they should have had a meeting with all of us and discussed it, not made a decision without us.”
The British Red Cross has provided volunteer support at Southlands Hospital for 40 years but the charity said it was now ‘focusing its limited resources on its core business of providing short-term support in emergency and crisis situations’.
Kate Drake, independent living manager for West Sussex, said: “I realise it is disappointing for some of our volunteers that they can no longer continue in their roles as part of the Red Cross, but I would like to thank them again for their hard work and commitment over the years.
“They have done a wonderful job and I hope that some of them will take the opportunity to stay on as hospital volunteers, or to train for other voluntary roles with the Red Cross.”
The charity said hospitals valued the support offered by the volunteers and had invited them to stay on, outside the auspices of the Red Cross.
Sandie Ellard, deputy director of nursing at Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said the volunteers had provided an invaluable service to patients but the British Red Cross had taken a national policy decision to no longer provide a hostess role in hospitals. She hoped the work would continue, however.
“We have written to all those affected by the Red Cross policy change, to explain what options are now available to them,” she added.
“We thank them for their diligent service and hope many will continue to serve at Southlands as trust volunteers.”