THEY are the ladies who have been giving their time to help those in hospital for generations.

For 76 years the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS) has been involved at Royal Hampshire County Hospital in Winchester, providing a trolley service, newspaper round and shop for patients and staff.

But now after all their service, they have been told to leave by hospital managers.

The charity has been involved at the Romsey Road site since 1941, and some volunteers have worked there more than 30 years.

They have been given notice to vacate the premises by October 24, and the decision will affect 60 volunteers and three part-time paid staff.

The Echo understands the charity was asked by Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to give more of their profits back to the hospital, but that the figure requested was a target they could not reach.

Originally founded in 1938 as the Women’s Voluntary Services for Air Raid Precautions, RVS is the largest volunteering organisation in British history.

Volunteer Mary Finlayson, 44, of Ringlet Way, Winnall, said they were not valued and had not been given an explanation for the decision.

She said: “We think it is commercial. I rang up and I was told on the phone by our head person, they didn’t really give a proper reason or notice.

“It feels like it was downgraded, and now they have suspended the trolleys.

“They are going to close the shop altogether - maybe it will be replaced with a chain like WH Smiths.

“For some volunteers it has been a lifeline, and they have put a lot of time and effort into it. It’s pretty much the end of the line - I feel let down by the hospital. It’s very frustrating for us all.”

Alex Whitfield, chief executive of Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the RHCH, said: “Royal Hampshire County Hospital and the RVS have enjoyed an excellent relationship for a long period and we are currently in discussions regarding the future of the RVS shop at the hospital.

“The RVS shop is wonderful for our patients, visitors and staff and I would like to thank all of the volunteers who give up their time to work there.”

When asked to clarify the future of the RVS a trust spokesman would only add, “nothing had been decided.”

Mark Olliver, director of retail operations for RVS, said: “We are currently discussing our retail service at Royal Hampshire County Hospital with the trust and exploring how we can continue to work together.

"Our volunteers and staff work tremendously hard and we know their efforts are hugely appreciated.

"We would like to take this opportunity to thank them for everything they have done to make the services at the hospital a success.”

The news comes as the NHS is due to announce its Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP) for services in Hampshire this autumn.