'It's sad that it's come to this': Northampton hospital charity group announces closure over parking troubles

The Friends of Northampton General Hospital charity will close its service on August 31.
The Friends of Northampton General Hospital charity will close its service on August 31.

A volunteer group with 28 years of history at Northampton General Hospital will close shop next month following a dispute over parking.

Friends of NGH has announced it will disband after committee members agreed in a meeting on Monday (July 17) that they felt unable to continue its service.

It comes after the group - which voluntarily operates the hospital's buggy service, information desks and a small shop - had their free parking privileges withdrawn by the hospital in a recent review.

Chairman Tony Croft said: "It's sad that it's come to this. Some of our volunteers have been with us for 20 years. The Friends do a great job and I shall miss it.

"We did not think it was right for our volunteers who give up their time and effort for the hospital to also pay for their own parking. We stood to lose members.

"Our committee discussed at length how we could continue, but it was agreed we would rather close down than feel like we were doing a half-hearted job."

The charity estimates they would have to spend £15,000 a year to cover the costs of parking for their shifts.

As part of the review, Northampton General Hospital announced it would reimburse its Trust volunteers for up to £5 for parking - but this does not apply to the Friends.

Tony said: "We would not want to be an inconvenience to the public and we will be working with the teams of volunteers at the hospital to ensure a smooth handover of services.

"We want to thank the public and the hospital for all their support over the years."

Friends of NGH was set up in 1979 as a fundraising charity for the hospital.

A spokeswoman for Northampton General Hospital said: “We’re very disappointed that the management committee has taken this decision. We understand that there are some Friends who want to continue to volunteer at the hospital and we hope they’ll consider joining our in-house volunteer service.

“To those volunteers who have decided not to continue, we send our grateful thanks and appreciation for all their support over the years.

“Our patients and visitors can rest assured that buggy and information services will continue and we will work with the Friends over the coming weeks to ensure a smooth transition of those services to our in-house volunteers.”

The Friends of NGH will end its service on August 31. They plan to offer the remaining funds in their reserves to the wards for their own uses.