A café serving patients at Southampton General Hospital is under threat of closure due to a lack of volunteers.

Run by the League of Friends, the tea bar in the outpatients eye unit plays a crucial role in the department as patients can receive treatment for three to four hours.

But after it was forced to close for almost three years during the pandemic, the number of volunteers has dropped.

Beryl Gatesman, 79, chair of Southampton's eye unit League of Friends, said: “If more volunteers have to stand down, we will have no option but to close some days, which we know will be really bad for patients, with hours with no drink or snacks.

“The tea bar is manned totally by volunteers who willingly give their time for free to help others. Some have been patients or family members and this is their way of saying thank you.

“Prior to us closing in 2020 due to Covid we had 32 volunteers, now we are down to just 20 volunteers.”

The League were told to closed in March 2020 and were not given permission to open until December 2022. This meant that many volunteers did not return after the pandemic.

Daily Echo: Beryl Gatesman from the League of Friends is appealing for volunteersBeryl Gatesman from the League of Friends is appealing for volunteers (Image: Submitted)

Beryl said: “We are desperate for volunteers to join us. 

“We are a friendly bunch and people look forward to coming in for their shift and mixing and having a chat with others.

“If you think this is something you'd like to have a go at please give me a call on 02380 770876.”

The tea bar in the eye unit is open from 9.30am to 4pm.

The day is split into two shifts, with two volunteers per shift.

The League of Friends of Southampton hospital's eye unit was established from the Eye Hospital that stood on the corner of Wilton Avenue and Bedford place. It closed in 1994.

The Southampton branch of the charity then moved into the outpatients eye unit in 2003.

The national charity was set up at the same time as the NHS.