Volunteers ‘kicked in teeth’ after learning of hospital cafe takeover
VOLUNTEERS at one of the BRI cafes say they feel like they have been kicked in the teeth after learning they will be replaced by one of the major coffee outlets.
Staff at the WRVS (formerly the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service) on the second floor of the Bristol Royal Infirmary have been told their cafe will shut on Thursday.
The cafe has more than 40 volunteer staff and has been serving hospital staff, visitors and patients hot and cold drinks, sandwiches, cakes and ice cream since 1984.
Over the past 10 years WRVS shops and cafes have gifted English hospitals more than £38 million.
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The closure of the cafe coincides with an £80 million revamp of the hospital which will make way for patient care to finally move out of the old BRI.
There are two other WVRS cafes within the hospital on the lower ground and fifth floors, but they are smaller and not as accessible.
Mark Gaskell, 47, has volunteered at the cafe for four years.
He said: “There is a huge sense of disappointment amongst the staff and we feel like we have been let down by the hospital. We have always given 100 per cent and this just feels like a massive kick in the face. People are very upset. We were told there was a possibility of being located somewhere else in the building but that has fallen through.
“There are two other WRVS cafes within the building but they are already staffed. There are more than 40 staff here and now we won’t have anywhere to go.
“I love working here. I have made so many friends and don’t want to be sat in my flat staring at four walls.”
Customers and staff have also reacted badly to the news of the closure, saying the service and cost of a chain coffee shop can not compete with the current friendliness and value.
Customer Keith Hough, 60, of Whitchurch, said: “It is a shocker. I am absolutely disgusted.
“That is just rampant commercialism. It is just going to be more costly for patients – I just can’t see a plus side apart from the hospital making a few bob.”
Richard Stanley, 65, of Keynsham said he has been coming to the cafe for 20 years.
He said: “You can’t beat this lot – they are brilliant in here. They are so helpful and you won’t get staff like that from a big coffee chain. I think people just won’t come.
“It is a huge blow for them and us. I feel very sorry for them.”
The charity has more than 40,000 volunteers, enabling WRVS to run local services to support older people in communities all across the UK.
John Clifford, WRVS service delivery manager for Bristol, said: “WRVS is disappointed to confirm the closure of our cafe in Queen’s Building at Bristol Royal Infirmary.
“We are currently having a dialogue with our volunteers about opportunities for them to continue working with WRVS if they would like to, including volunteering at the other services WRVS has at the hospital.
“We would like to take this opportunity to thank the volunteers at the service, who have worked so hard and dedicated so much time to making the cafe a success.
“We know their efforts have been appreciated by everyone who visited the café over the years.”
Deborah Lee, director of strategic development for University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We have a long standing relationship with the WRVS and are extremely grateful to the organisation and their volunteers for the services they provide. We have a number of shops and refreshment kiosks, cafes and trolley services that operate within our city centre hospitals.
“This relationship with the organisation will continue and in fact we are speaking to the WRVS about plans to expand their facilities in a number of our hospitals.
“They include expanding the existing WRVS shop in the foyer of the children’s hospital to provide hot snacks and light meals, introducing a WRVS drinks kiosk outside the existing entrance to the BRI and introducing a WRVS sales kiosk in the atrium of the Bristol Heart Institute.
“We recently received full planning permission to transform the entrance to the BRI to make it more welcoming for patients and building work will begin next month.
“As part of this it is necessary to close the WRVS cafe on level two at the end of June and the WRVS shop, also on level two, at the end of October. When the new entrance concourse is complete, patients and visitors will have access to a range of facilities including a cafe and a food retailer.”