This year sees the 40th anniversary of the Friends of Milton Keynes Hospital and Community, a group of committed volunteers who work tirelessly to help raise funds for equipment and also provide a vital hospital shop and ward trolley services 364 days of the year.
The charity was set up in 1979 to explore voluntary opportunities before the hospital even opened! Work is always going on behind the scenes with a variety of fundraising initiatives but most visitors and patients in the hospital will associate the Friends with their busy on-site shop and ward trolley service. These are run by 48 volunteers and seven members of staff, keeping people topped up with a wide range of hot and cold food, drinks, newspapers and magazines along with all those little extras that make a difference to patients, visitors and staff.
The Friends were formed following a public meeting chaired by the then Mayor Councillor Pat Adams. With a borough lottery grant of just £10,000 the charity was up and running and when the first phase of the hospital opened in 1984 the team ran a tea bar-cum-shop in the old main entrance. The group have raised thousands for all kinds of equipment and support over the years, the highlight of which was a massive appeal for the hospital’s first CAT scanner.
Three of the Friends’ members have been involved for over 30 years and they can still be seen volunteering – Neville Billington, Ann Thomas and shop chairman Clare Hill.
Clare says: ‘Very early on, the hospital executive team recognised the need for a shop for staff, visitors and patients and this quickly grew into us offering a café service. Our trolley visits every single ward every day except Christmas Day and is the highlight of many patients’ days. Sometimes, when as a patient you are confined to bed, the opportunity to buy a magazine or a newspaper and have a chat makes a huge difference to your experience. We always ensure the trolley is fully stocked with a range of cold drinks, toiletries and snacks as well.’