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League of Friends cafe set to move at Medway Maritime Hospital to make way for Costa

About 180 volunteers, who raise nearly half a million pounds a year for vital equipment at Medway Maritime Hospital, are set to be pushed aside to make way for a multi-national coffee chain.

Costa is looking to move into the League of Friends cafe and convenience shop which has been home to the band of loyal helpers formed 50 years ago.

The shock announcement was delivered to charity staff last week and it is thought the coffee house could take over within weeks.

The Friends' Shop at Medway Maritime Hospital
The Friends' Shop at Medway Maritime Hospital

The store at the main entrance sells drinks, snacks, toiletries, flowers, newspapers and magazines to the millions who use the hospital.

They have been told they can use a smaller premises on site near the bus stops near Windmill Road which they say currently only takes about £200 a week.

Last year the charity donated about £460,000 to the trust, which is tax-free, and in the past this has gone toward buying equipment for the special care baby unit and a motorbike to pick up blood supplies.

Costa coffee logo
Costa coffee logo

A letter sent out on behalf of the Friends said none of its members were consulted and they were engaging the services of solicitors.

A volunteer, who does not want to be named described the trust’s decision to let Costa take up the lease as a “kick in the teeth”.

Copies of the letter handed out to volunteers have been shown to regular customers and trust employees.

It says: “Our trustees were recently called to a meeting where they were notified of the hospital’s intention to relocate the main League of Friends shop and to replace it with a Costa Coffee outlet."

James Devine, acting chief executive of Medway NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are looking at the possibility of bringing additional vendors onto our site to give the patients and visitors who come to Medway Maritime Hospital a greater variety of shops and services.

"To do this, we are also looking at how we can use our site as effectively as possible and where we can best locate shops, including the main Friends shop."

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