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Friends of Harrogate Hospital Chairman stands down

A dedicated fundraiser who has helped raise more than £2.7m for Harrogate Hospital has stood down as chairman of the volunteer group.

The Friends of Harrogate Hospital have raised over £2.7m over the last 56 years to purchase thousands of pieces of extra equipment for our Harrogate Hospital.  The Friends’ aim is to enhance the patient experience, funding equipment that could not be purchased through the NHS budget.

Andy Wilkinson has been an active volunteer with the Friends for nearly 45 years, with the majority of years as the group’s Chairman and some time as Secretary.

In Andy’s time he has taken the voluntary groups’s charity efforts from coffee mornings to major events like the Big Picnic.  He said this week “The generosity of everyone has made it thoroughly enjoyable.

We’ve done our best to raise money to help people.  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed doing it and I hope it can go on from strength to strength.”

In recent years the Friends have funded relatives’ rooms on the children’s wards, so that parents of sick children have somewhere to stay, as well as on the Intensive Therapy Unit and the Stroke Unit. It has paid for a light sensory unit, a Friends’ garden, paediatric outpatients waiting room, as well as additional equipment.

And one of its biggest campaigns saw it raise £330,000 to house an MRI scanner in 2005. More than 1,000 patients have benefited from that every year since.

“We were given 18 months, we did it in 12,” said Wing Commander Andy Wilkinson. “On January 1, 2005, the scanner went live.”

“In those days it was a 76 week wait for a scan, you wouldn’t believe it now. We brought it down to almost on-demand by April.

“We’re a good news organisation. And it brings a boost to the staff, to be supported by local people. They know that everybody is backing them.”

The Hospital Friends, made up of volunteers, raise money through charitable events like prize draws, with donations from events hosted by local groups.

But the biggest fundraiser every year was the Big Picnic, held in the Valley Gardens from 2008 and sponsored by Procter and Gamble.

This family day, attended by thousands of people from across the Harrogate district, raised nearly £17,000. And the money goes back to the hospital.

“This is a good way for charitable funds to be used,” said Wg Cmdr Wilkinson. “People who have donated to us have had their money back with interest because of how it’s been spent.

“We have a hospital that’s one of the best in the country. That’s down to the generosity of the people of Harrogate who have donated.”

His greatest achievement with the Friends, he said, was helping to set up a volunteer scheme at the hospital, securing a grant in 2008 to employ someone for three years to recruit volunteers.

“Getting so many young people involved in the hospital was probably my greatest achievement. That, and the MRI appeal.”

He passed the reins to new chairman John Fox recently but says he will stay on as a volunteer.

Andy Wilkinson said “I know that the Friends are in good hands, John Fox has been a Trustee of the Friends, before we merged with the Harrogate Hospital Community Charity, and has been a very supportive volunteer for many years.  John is busy reorganising the voluntary group for the future.”

The Harrogate Hospital Community Charity provided a Celebration party for Andy Wilkinson and presented a Limited Edition lapel badge of crossed hands made from metal from a former Spitfire.  The Friends of Harrogate Hospital presented Andy with a Certificate for Lifetime Achievement Award together with an engraved glass trophy and his favourite whisky and wine.

John Fox said “We thank Andy for his enduring commitment and dedication to the Friends over many years.  He was also a Founder Governor of the Foundation Trust.  His support for the Harrogate Hospital is just amazing.  I know that the staff have really appreciated his work over many years.  He will be a hard act to follow.

We have recently been very successful in being able to purchase a video laryngoscope for the Special Care Baby Unit in the Harrogate Hospital.  The equipment was purchased with the support of a local Trust.”

Sarah Armstrong, Chair of Harrogate & District NHS Foundation Trust said “We are extremely grateful for all Andy’s fundraising efforts over many years and his commitment to supporting Harrogate Hospital in making a difference for our patients.”

If you would like more information about the Friends of Harrogate Hospital, please contact

Picture courtesy of Gerard Binks. 


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