Charity stall volunteers “chucked out” of Hinchingbrooke Hospital

Hinchingbrooke Hospital's A&E department has been ranked among national top 10

Hinchingbrooke Hospital's A&E department has been ranked among national top 10 - Credit: Archant

VOLUNTEERS who helped raise more than £1million for Hinchingbrooke Hospital by selling donated goods say they are being “chucked out” as part of a redevelopment.

A charity stall selling books, greetings cards, ornaments and toys seven days a week was set up at the Huntingdon hospital 25 years ago by Beryl Rham and raises about £36,000 a year to help buy medical equipment.

But private healthcare company Circle, which manages the hospital, has been refurbishing its main entrance and, despite assurances, bosses have decided there is no space for the stall.

Barbara Darling, 70, and Brenda Stevens, 75, have been jointly running the charitable enterprise, with help from a team of voluntary helpers, for seven years.

Mrs Darling said they were summoned to an urgent meeting with Mark Cammies, Hinchingbrooke’s estates and facilities director, this week. “They said we have come to tell you we are not having a stall - just like that.

“He said you can still fundraise and I said ‘Where?’ We’ve got two rooms full of stuff.

“We’re just shocked. We raise about £36,000 a year, all for medical equipment, and they are just chucking us out.”

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A Costa Coffee opened recently as part of the revamp and a new convenience store is planned, replacing one run by another charity organisation, the WRVS.

The stall had to be moved to another part of the hospital while the work was underway but Mrs Darling says she was told it was included in the proposals for the main entrance.

“We had plans, had seen the architect, everything was fine,” she said. “We had a meeting a fortnight ago and they were still on course. We’re gobsmacked.”

Mrs Darling said the volunteers had previoulsy been given the option of moving the stall to the hospital’s treatment centre, which is separate to the main building.

A Hinchingbrooke Hospital spokesman said: “The decision not to reopen our charity stall is not due to space issues but linked to us seeking more creative means of fundraising and to improving patient experience.”

A new “operational hub” was being created at the front of the hospital, said the spokesman, bringing together support services such as volunteers, reception, switchboard and porters.

She continued: “This enables more efficient management and communication between these teams and provides a focal point for the hospital.”

Volunteers were greatly valued, said the spokesman, adding: “We are continuously engaging with them about our future plans, as well as improving their on-going training and support.

“A recruitment process is currently underway for a volunteers co-ordinator who will manage and support our volunteers on a day-to-day basis.

“We are also increasing the number of volunteers in the hospital and improving the opportunities available for them in frontline and patient support roles.”