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Update on Chester Childbirth Appeal ongoing discussions

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Being Chief Executive is a tough job, but it is the job I have chosen and want to do. You have to make decisions that aren’t always popular or well received and I am fully aware of this responsibility.

This week the decision for Chester Childbirth Appeal to bring their coffee shop ‘in house’ to become part of the wider Countess catering team is the subject of much discussion and questioning. 

Working here at The Countess, we talk a lot about the importance of being kind to each other and kind to our patients. Right now, some might feel that I’m not being particularly kind to those working at The Chester Childbirth Appeal in our Women and Children’s building. I know that more than 1,000 people, including many Countess colleagues have signed a petition or commented on social media to ask that I reconsider our plans and save the charity coffee shop. 

I think it may be helpful for others to know more of the detail...

  • This isn’t a rash decision, and it hasn’t come out of the blue. We have been involved in discussions with Pat Daniels to explore how we might work together differently for more than a year now. 
  • The hospital fully supports The Chester Childbirth Appeal charity and wishes it to continue with its good work and longstanding partnership with The Countess. It raises money in many ways, not just through its coffee shop (trading as Chester Childbirth Appeal Company Ltd).
  • We are totally committed to having a coffee shop facility in our Women and Children’s building. The hours of operation will remain the same. We recognise it is valued by both staff and patients for its comfort, food and company.  We don’t want to close it down. 
  • Just to be absolutely clear, there are no plans to open a Costa coffee or any other commercial chain in place of this shop. We want The Countess catering service to assume responsibilities for the running and management of the facility. They have a fantastic reputation in terms of quality, regulation and business acumen. We know it won’t be any more expensive for customers.
  • There is the opportunity to share expertise and learning in bringing the two teams together. We want the current salaried staff and volunteers in the charity coffee shop to have continued input into the running of the facility as part of a wider catering team. We aren’t anticipating job losses. NHS terms and conditions of contract may even be a better proposition for those whom TUPE applies.  
  • Although we can’t directly donate profits to the charity by taking this facility in house, we will commit to equivalent funds generated by this shop being re-invested in Women and Children’s services in keeping with the principles of Chester Childbirth Appeal. This means that in combining the operational expertise of our catering team with the Chester Childbirth coffee shop team, we will be in an even better position to generate more funds to benefit mums and new born babies. At a time of well documented financial challenge for the NHS, we thought this was a sensible option to explore.   

And so as I reflect on what I know, for me it is that patients and staff will not notice any difference. People will still be able to get a cup of coffee or a bite to eat in our Women and Children’s Building. Chester Childbirth Appeal will continue to have fundraising offices on our site. Pat Daniels will always be a familiar and welcome face in and around The Countess.

This decision was not meant to cause upset.

I will continue to listen to the feedback, and will be having further meetings with Chester Childbirth Appeal to find a way forward.


Best wishes – Tony


About the Author

Tony image

Chief Executive of Countess of Chester NHS Foundation Trust.

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