Shops for hospital

WORK on a commercially-managed retail site at Hinchingbrooke Hospital could start in late summer, now its future is secure. Two or three shops could appear in the fishpond courtyard , a development that has been stalled since the hospital s financial sit

WORK on a commercially-managed retail site at Hinchingbrooke Hospital could start in late summer, now its future is secure.

Two or three shops could appear in the 'fishpond courtyard', a development that has been stalled since the hospital's financial situation became a serious concern nearly a year ago.

With the Red Cross struggling to find sufficient volunteers for its 12-hours-a-day seven-days-a-week operation, the hospital is keen to expand the range of goods on offer to staff, patients and visitors, facilities director Brian Gibbs said.

The Red Cross has been in what was supposed to be temporary accommodation beside the restaurant in the main hospital building for two years - originally to make way for modernisation of the main entrance. Meanwhile talks with two potential operators stalled last summer when the hospital's future became uncertain.

Now that Cambridgeshire Primary Care Trust is consulting on a rescue plan that will result in fewer patients being seen at Hinchingbrooke, the likely footfall of potential customers has become more predictable and both commercial companies remain interested in the opportunity, Mr Gibbs said.

"What I originally wanted was a larger retail shop, a shop for charity and a third area for organisations that want to sell things ad hoc. I initially offered the opportunity to the national Red Cross organisation, then the WRVS, but both indicated they could not support a retail development.

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"The third option was to advertise for commercial organisations with experience of managing retail services in hospitals. That's where we are now," Mr Gibbs said.

He sympathised with the local Red Cross. "I can't speak highly enough of them. Their service is magnificent and they have never let us down, but other hospitals offer a wider range. We have a large number of residents here who have to go into town for groceries.

"The Red Cross thinks it's in the wrong location, and it clearly is. That's why I want to develop the fishpond area. They are right to say that it's gone on too long. We intended to start last autumn and would have been finished by now.

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