The end of tea and sympathy? Costa in, volunteers out at superhospital
WOMEN volunteers have been dumped from North Staffordshire's new superhospital after dishing up cuppas and snacks to generations of patients.
Instead, health bosses have brought in multi-national chain Costa Coffee to serve the hundreds of thousands of people using the state-of-the-art venue every year.
The Women's Royal Voluntary Service (WRVS) will continue to run the tea-bar at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire's nearby maternity hospital.
But it is no longer be catering for the huge numbers of people using the trust's outpatients department.
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The WRVS bar in the hospital's orthopaedic and surgical unit is also closing.
Officials ruled there is no room for the mainly elderly volunteers in the atrium of the City General superhospital where the outpatients centre is based.
The women have been pouring out drinks to patients in the waiting room of the old outpatients centre since it opened 50 years ago.
But the end of an era has been hard to swallow for many patients who valued the homely nature of the WRVS tea-bar.
Glaucoma sufferer John Davis, aged 77, from Bentilee, said: "This is a really sad day. WRVS may still have a cafe in maternity but that is a smaller specialist service compared to the thousands using central outpatients.
"They have been served snacks and beverages at reasonable prices by these local, homely and friendly ladies and the service was such a popular fixture of the old place.
"The trust has clearly been attracted by the big penny from Costa Coffee and it is typical of how the NHS is turning more and more to big commercial concerns.
"The new superhospital is so big it can seem impersonal so keeping the WRVS snack bar would have retained a familiar and personal touch for folk."
Hospital patient Barbara Beeston's aunt Lillia Cooke worked at the WRVS bar for years before her death five years ago.
Mrs Beeston, aged 65, of Bentilee, said: "We are losing something special here. My aunt, like all the ladies, had a great way with the patients and put them at ease.
"They all work for free and profits went to the hospital. If the trust could find room for Costa Coffee why not the WRVS?"
Last year the society donated cafe profits of tens of thousands of pounds to the hospital.
Lynn Hensman, WRVS service delivery manager for Staffordshire, said: "We are disappointed to confirm the closure of our outpatients and orthopaedic tea bars.
"Unfortunately, there is no space for WRVS services in the new hospital. We would like to thank our volunteers who have worked so hard and given their time to make services at the hospital a success."
A hospital spokesman said: "We have always valued the work of the WRVS and provided a brand new cafe for them in the maternity unit."