Neurologist joins condemnation at Bristol hospital's volunteer cafe closure
A PROFESSOR who worked at a Bristol hospital for 22 years has urged the health trust to reconsider the closure of a volunteer-run cafe.
Richard Langton Hewer was a neurologist at Bristol Royal Infirmary and has more recently been a patient at the hospital. He is concerned about the decision to close the WRVS cafe and shop in the hospital's main corridor to make way for the new entrance to the site.
As reported in the Post last week, the services were closed to make way for a revamped "welcome centre" at the hospital, which is likely to feature a chain coffee shop and other stores.
Prof Langton Hewer described the WRVS cafe and shop as an "essential public service" and called for the plans to be put on hold pending a review.
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"In recent years I have been a patient and have benefited greatly from first-class care at the hospital. It is therefore with much regret that I feel that I must protest at the pending planned closures," he said.
"Both the cafe and the shop are very well used. It is frequently difficult to get a seat in the cafe.
"Access is excellent as both facilities are sited just off the main hospital corridor. This is particularly important for disabled people with mobility problems. It is also important to note that many patients have long and tiring journeys to the hospital using public transport, partly due to the lack of car parks. It is therefore unsurprising that the cafe is popular with patients, relatives and the hospital staff."
Prof Langton Hewer was disappointed that the hospital trust had not provided information about the closure to the people who use the cafe.
"The cafe and shop are an essential public service," he said.
"The BRI is a public facility and not a department store where the manager can make what changes he likes provided that the customers keep coming. The changes to the BRI entrance are welcome but should not depend upon actions such as this.
"The Community Health Council, which was abolished ten years ago, would never have let this happen. Please may we have an urgent response from the chief executive of the trust."
The WRVS cafe has more than 40 volunteer staff and has been serving refreshments since 1984.
The trust said the closure was necessary to make way for demolition works and that the WRVS regional office was given notice of the need to move out at the end of 2011. The WRVS was offered the opportunity to bid to provide services in the Welcome Centre, but it has not yet been revealed which organisations will take over the units.
Deborah Lee, director of strategic development for University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, said: "We are talking to the WRVS about replacing the WRVS shop with a sales kiosk in the atrium of the Bristol Heart Institute. We recognise the value of the services the WRVS have offered in the BRI main entrance. The commercial rents that the new Welcome Centre will attract will enable us not only to provide ongoing cafe facilities but a wide range of expanded services for patients including a fantastic new main entrance, a new patient information service, an expanded patient advice and liaison service and an outpatient booking centre.
"Without these commercial partners, we would not be able to provide these very much enhanced services for patients and visitors."