STAFF and volunteers at a charitable shop at Winchester hospital were “devastated” to hear it is closing in March.

The Royal Voluntary Service (RVS) shop, in the Butterfield Reception in Royal Hampshire County Hospital, is set to permanently close on Wednesday, March 15.

The service has been involved with the hospital in Winchester for more than 40 years, with the shop opening in the 1980s.

A worker at the RVS shop, who asked to remain anonymous, said that they were “devastated” when they heard the shop was closing. 

They said: “Before the pandemic, we had a network of over 30 volunteers who served in the shop and a trolley service that visited patients and staff in the wards.

"The volunteers were the jewels in our crown. Some of them made close friendships working together in the shop. Some of them had worked there for decades.

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“I feel sad at the shop closure because it is a social hub in the hospital for staff, patients, and visitors.

“There have been so many comments from everyone saying how sad they are that it’s closing.”

Head of retail operations for RVS, Chris Gray said the closure has been brought about by falling footfall.

He said: “We have been pleased to see trading return to many of our cafés and shops, which are predominately based in hospitals, following the pandemic.

"There are however some sites where there is reduced footfall and customer spend, including our shop at Royal Hampshire County Hospital.

“This means we have had to make the difficult decision to close the shop. As a charity operating in a challenging environment, it’s no longer viable to run this service.

"Our focus remains on supporting the rest of our retail estate as well as on helping the NHS and vulnerable people in the community.

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“We are sad to see this service go and would like to thank all our staff and volunteers who have supported the shop over the years."

A Hampshire Hospital NHS Foundation Trust spokesperson said they were considering what to do with the space.

They said: “Hampshire Hospitals has been given notice by the Royal Voluntary Service that it is closing the shop at Winchester Hospital.

 “Whilst this isn't a decision made by the trust, we are currently exploring what we can do to support the staff and volunteers - who have been a wonderful addition to Team HHFT - and reviewing the best way forward for the space.”