A HOSPITAL support group has been forced to fold after nearly 40 years of fundraising and volunteering.

The League of Friends of Wycombe Hospital officially dissolved during a poignant special general meeting last week.

It blamed its demise on the NHS Trust’s decision in 2008 to closure the hospital shop, run by volunteers, which cut a regular income stream.

The charity, registered in 1973, has raised almost £800,000 for new medical equipment in the last 14 years alone. In addition to the former hospital shop, the group also went round the wards on patient visits.

In a statement, the league said: “Monday was a sad day for the remaining handful of members of the League of Friends, Wycombe Hospital, who met formally to dissolve the League.

“Sadly the shop was closed on 31 December 2008 by the hospital authorities - this destroyed our regular income almost completely.

“It also meant that we no longer had a presence in the hospital and gave the impression that we ceased to exist. As a result it made it inevitable that we had little option but to wind down our activities.

“The success of the league was due to the dedication of many volunteers who unstintingly gave their time and this should never be forgotten.”

The charity’s closure has been met with sadness by the Save Our Hospital Services group, which called the news “tragic”.

Terry Price said: “It’s absolutely tragic. All of the volunteers were really dedicated, they gave up their time, they raised a lot of money for the benefit of the patients and should have been treated with greater respect.

“The money they raised over such a long period of time is certainly not to be sniffed at, but the service they provided to patients and visitors you simply can’t put a price on that. It’s a sad day for Wycombe Hospital.”

In a statement, the Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust said: "We would like to thank The League of Friends of Wycombe Hospital for their considerable support of our patients over the years in particular for their fundraising and donations to the hospital.

"We continued to work with the League of Friends to try to identify ways to support fundraising endeavours, however we understand their decision and we wish each one of them well for the future."