Charity cafe at Stevenage’s Lister Hospital to be replaced by coffee shop giant?

New-Lister-emergency-departmen

- Credit: Archant

A charity-run hospital café is to close and could be replaced by a major coffee shop chain, causing a “real loss to the community”.

The café in the A&E department at Lister Hospital in Stevenage is currently run by the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS).

But, as part of a £19 million redevelopment of the A&E department, the café is set to close in April.

The East and North Herts NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, has confirmed there will be a tendering process for a new catering facility, prompting fears the RVS could be muscled out by a coffee shop giant.

One concerned Knebworth resident, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “Hospital managers are seizing the chance to bring in the big corporations. Prices will probably triple.

“At the moment the place is staffed by volunteers, which means overheads are low. Everything is fairly cheap and the cash raised goes back to the RVS, which in turn uses the money to care for elderly people in the area. It’s a link going back decades. Cafes in hospitals have been run by RVS – formerly the WRVS – volunteers since World War I.”

He said the volunteers have “an exceptionally strong public service ethos”, but could be left twiddling their thumbs.

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Patrick Newman, a member of the East and North Herts Independent Health Monitoring Group, added: “It’s a community service. Hospital bosses need to think about the knock-on effect of their decision. There may be a real loss to the community.

“The value to the community is not just constrained to offering the service. Profits are invested in the area and volunteers feel they are contributing something to society.”

Phil Martin, locality manager for the RVS in Hertfordshire, said: “We would like to thank our volunteers and staff for their hard work in making the café a success.

“We will be considering the tender to run the café in the new building when it is issued later in the year.”

A spokesman for the Trust said there has been an RVS outlet in the A&E department for many years, providing “a wonderful service, for which we are very grateful”.

He added: “There will still be a catering opportunity, for which we will be inviting tenders. We understand the RVS plans to submit a tender. Other suppliers will also be invited to submit tenders that will all be considered on their own merits.”

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