HUNDREDS of people have signed a petition calling for a volunteer-run cafe at Wharfedale Hospital to stay open.

WRVS - now called RVS - has been providing hot drinks and snacks from the coffee/tea bar at the modern hospital, and the previous building, for decades.

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, however, has told the volunteers who run the facility that it will close this month. That decision, which the Trust said had been taken to ensure it is ‘making the best use of resources’, has baffled both the bar’s team and customers.

But volunteer Ann Walker is determined not to give up without a fight and has started a petition*, calling on the Trust to think again, which has already attracted more than 540 signatures.

Posting on Facebook, she said: “On March 29 the people of Otley will no longer be able to enjoy a cup of coffee and a cake or biscuit at the RVS tea bar at Wharfedale Hospital.

“The WRVS has been a part of the hospital since the war years. The volunteers are absolutely gutted that the Trust can do this to a charity which the staff and the general public rely on so much.

“The reason we are to be closed is because the restaurant in the hospital is losing money and we are not, so we are seen as competition and they don’t like it.

“We have started a petition in the hospital and you will see me in the town getting signatures, if you see me please stop me and sign.”

She told the Wharfedale & Aireborough Observer: “I’ve been around town and all over the hospital and people have been very happy to support the petition.

“That includes all the hospital staff who are adamant they don’t want us to close and that they won’t use the restaurant.”

The volunteers have also enlisted the help of MP Alex Sobel (Lab, Leeds North West). In a letter to the Trust he says: “I urge you to revisit the decision and consider all possible options that mean the tea bar could still operate on some level alongside the restaurant.

“I understand it is a busy service and is making a good profit. I have been told that the volunteers sometimes work past four o’clock to ensure all those coming from clinics can access the service.

“The planned closure has come as a surprise to the dedicated volunteers and I understand they have started a petition campaign to keep the tea bar open.

“I have been told the WRVS has been at Wharfedale Hospital since the 1940s and it would be a great shame to lose this valuable community asset along with all the committed and loyal volunteers.”

The Trust has said it appreciates the commitment of the volunteers but that it was ‘not sustainable to continue with both the coffee bar and the restaurant’.

*A copy of the petition is available at the coffee bar.