Volunteers have been good friends to all of us

STEVE CANAVAN: Take note of why I love this country so much

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You may not know one of them personally – but you or someone you love almost certainly owes them a debt of thanks.

The League of Friends might work behind the scenes at Queen Alexandra Hospital, but that doesn’t mean we should treat them like strangers.

These kind and dedicated volunteers will mark their 60th anniversary this month, making now the perfect time to recognise all that they do for us.

Over the years they’ve raised an astonishing £1.6m for the hospital and that’s something all of us will have benefited from at some time or another.

The funds they raise have been used to buy practical equipment including teaching stethoscopes, children’s toys, clocks and bedside tables.

And they’ve also made a substantial donation to other hospital campaigns over the years, including the Rocky Appeal.

None of that would have been possible if it wasn’t for the hard work of a team of more than 450 members.

The volunteers who run the shop and tea trolleys give up their own time willingly to ensure that life is just a little brighter for hospital staff, visitors and patients.

No-one relishes spending time in hospital, but knowing someone is there to sort them out with hot drinks, food and essential items is a comforting thought.

Of course, in an ideal world, we wouldn’t need to rely on volunteers to raise money for our hospitals.

Funding the NHS should always be the government’s responsibility.

We understand that times are tough and difficult decisions have to be made about money. But no health minister should ever make the mistake of thinking that organisations such as the League of Friends can be used to plug funding shortfalls.

As Portsmouth’s willing band of volunteers get ready to mark their 60 years of service, there are two words that can’t go unspoken.

It’s a simple message but comes from the heart – and we’re sure everyone who has had to rely on our hospital at some point or another will echo our thoughts.

Thank you.