The running of shops and cafés operated by Friends charities at three separate Sussex hospitals has been put out to tender, it has emerged.
Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust has invited professional catering providers and retailers to put forward proposals to run the shops, as well as its in-house visitor restaurants, as part of a review into improving the services.
Friends charities provide a shop at St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester, a café and shop at Worthing Hospital, and a café and shop at Southlands Hospital in Shoreham.
David Jones, director of estates, facilities and capital at the trust, told the Chichester Observer that the organisation has spent the last year reviewing its retail catering services to see how it can make them better for visitors, patients and staff.
“One of the options the Trust is exploring is for our restaurants and shops to be run by professional catering providers and retailers rather than the hospitals themselves, so we are now inviting companies and external organisations to put forward their own proposals explaining how this might work and what the benefits for the Trust would be,” he explained.
The news has been met with concern by some, who said that hundreds of volunteers had devoted time to running the Friends operations. But Mr Jones said that any organisation is welcome to tender, including Friends.
“Currently, our Friends organisations run some of their commercial operations from the main entrances of our hospitals. It is possible that these areas may be identified for redevelopment as part of the commercial proposals we receive. Should any of these be taken forward, we are committed to working with the Friends organisations as to how we can best work together into the future,” he said.
Mr Jones said that the trust is hoping to hear from a variety of service providers, from well-known high street names to local businesses.