A woman has spoken out against a hospital trust’s cost-saving measures, labelling them “ridiculous”.

Pat Jones, of Derby Way in Stevenage, has criticised the East and North Herts NHS Trust for scrapping its volunteers’ daily £2.50 lunch allowance scheme at Lister Hospital.

A letter sent to volunteers by Janis Hall, voluntary services manager for the Trust, reads: “From April 1 we will not be able to provide meal vouchers for volunteers. I hope you will understand why we have had to take this decision. We will be relying on our volunteer workforce more than ever and sincerely hope you will continue to support us.

“We need to account for every penny we spend with even more scrutiny than in previous years. We are still determined to provide an excellent service to patients - we will just have to find a more imaginative way of doing it.”

The letter goes on to say the Trust will continue to pay volunteers’ travel expenses – a service costing £15,000 a year.

Mrs Jones, who has volunteered at the Stevenage hospital for five years, said: “I think it’s disgusting. Of course I can afford to buy my own lunch but it’s the principle of the matter. It would cost the hospital even more to actually pay these people a wage. They make us feel completely undervalued and unappreciated.”

The Trust’s chief executive Nick Carver said: “For some years, we provided our volunteers with a voucher that they could use to pay towards the cost of a meal while on duty with us. This year, however, the Trust has to find some £26 million in savings to ensure we stay within the funding available. This is part of the financial challenge facing every part of the NHS and not just the Trust.

“We’ve taken the decision that non-clinical budgets within the Trust would bear a higher burden when it came to finding these savings, thus helping to ease the pressure on clinical budgets - i.e. the services and treatments provided directly to our patients. Very sadly, we’ve had to withdraw the luncheon vouchers for volunteers this year, but we will continue to invest in their training and uniforms, as well as paying travel expenses where claimed.

“We accept that for some volunteers this may be a difficult decision to accept, but this should never be confused as the Trust not vauing the additional assitance they provide in helping us deliver the best possible care for our patients – we have never taken this for granted, and will never do so.”