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.
Ron Noakes, chairman of the Friends of Worthing Hospital, said: “The response from the public has been incredible, absolutely amazing.”
Some 300 people were asked whether they would prefer a high-street name to be running shops.
Mr Noakes said: “Everybody, without exception, has put ‘no’.”
Malcolm Brett, the chairman of the League of Friends of Southlands Hospital, said responses to the survey had included many ‘heartwarming comments’.
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.”
A separate online petition, started by a member of the public, has amassed more than 950 signatures.
Lynne Emery from Lancing wrote on the petition: “It’s such an important part of the hospital with caring and dedicated volunteers.
“I cannot imagine that a commercial, corporate business would offer such warmth!”
Mark Summer from Worthing wrote: “No need to change what is a friendly and welcoming service that rightly feels part of the hospital rather than part of the high street.”
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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