Volunteers left feeling 'bitter' after change to Harrogate Hospital charity cafe

The cafe will change over to the trust on June 30 this year.
The cafe will change over to the trust on June 30 this year.

Dedicated volunteers have been left feeling ‘bitter’ after they were told the cafe at Harrogate District Hospital will be taken out of the hands of the charity which has run it for nearly a decade.

The Royal Voluntary Service (RVS) has provided volunteers to run the cafe and other services at Harrogate District Hospital for 30 years.

But the Harrogate and District Foundation Trust (HDFT) recently announced that they would no longer lease the cafe space by reception, come July this year.

The RVS volunteers will have the opportunity to continue their voluntary roles under the Trust instead, which intends to rejuvenate the cafe and run it autonomously, so that its profits can be increased and ‘re-invested into direct patient care’.

RVS volunteer, Richard Jackson, said: “There’s some volunteers that have been there 20 or 30 years. It’s been really upsetting, I have only been there three or four years but speaking to people who have been there since the hospital was built, it’s bad news.

“The actual people on the ground, the volunteers, have had no input at all and they are feeling pretty bitter. It’s a raw nerve, I love volunteering but I volunteered to work for the RVS.”

For the last seven years, the RVS have paid rent to HDFT for the cafe space but all of the profit from the charity’s services has been reinvested into their work to support older people within the hospital and the community.

Mr Jackson also said he was sceptical that the Trust will be able to make any more money from the cafe than what is currently making.

He said: “The trust just want to make more money from the cafe without actually testing it out. It’s going to cost a few thousand to rejuvenate that cafe area so that has to be taken into account.”

But the Trust explained those costs had been factored in to the plans.

Ross Mitchell, Deputy Director of Facilities at HDFT, said: “We have considered how we can enhance the range and quality of food and drinks provided, as well as put in place extended opening times including weekends. In addition, we have been looking at options which will provide more income for the Trust to reinvest in direct patient care.

“Following a complete refurbishment of the coffee shop area, we will be reopening in September 2017 with a Trust-run service, with volunteers supporting paid members of staff.

“We understand and appreciate how popular the RVS café is, and we have always valued the RVS volunteers. There will always be opportunities for volunteers to continue with us, and have met with them to share what is due to happen over the coming months.

“In addition to the volunteers, there are a very small number of members of staff in the café who will transfer over to the Trust should they want to continue their employment. The trolley service and flower service to wards will continue.”

Mark Stobart, Retail Area Manager for RVS in the North East of England said: “We’re disappointed to confirm that our café and trolley services at Harrogate Hospital will be ending.

“Our volunteers and staff at the hospital have worked tremendously hard to support those at the hospital and we know that their efforts have been hugely appreciated.

“We thank them for everything they have done to make the services at the hospital a success.”