Leagues of Friends have a long and proud history that predates the establishment of the NHS. It was acknowledged by Aneurin Bevan that there would always be a role for volunteers in providing health and social care services.

As our health system comes under increasing pressure, the support of volunteers is of paramount importance.

Margaret Hughes MBE, Vice President of the Churchill Hospital League of Friends, said: "The benefits of volunteering are that you discover a new circle of friends, while enjoying a lot of job satisfaction."

The Churchill Hospital League of Friends, which is a registered charity separate from the John Radcliffe Hospital League, was established in 1980. The volunteers work to support patients and staff by providing facilities, medical equipment and other items which help to brighten up the patients' environment. Funds for these are not available from the NHS budget.

The funds are raised solely by the dedication and support of active volunteers, who give their time and energy by preparing and selling refreshments in the popular tea bar, and also the League of Friends' shop.

Catherine, who is a former patient at the hospital, said: "The tea bar offers a nice quiet place for patients and visitors to enjoy a cup of tea or a sandwich. It's somewhere to come and think, especially if you've been given bad news."

The Churchill Hospital is an established centre for treating cancer patients, as well as having such departments as a renal unit and a ward for the treatment of chest disease. It has 330 beds and an extensive outpatients' department, as well as day-care facilities, which are being redeveloped.

The new site will include a new Cancer and Haematology Centre, due to open later this year, at a cost of £120m. Eventually it will become one of the top specialist cancer centres in the country. It will double the number of patients, which will put extra pressure on the tea bar and shop.

There is an urgent need, therefore, for more volunteers.

Miss Hughes said: "Volunteers can be of any age, with no previous experience - and all travel expenses are reimbursed."

Dawn, aged 82, has been a volunteer in the tea bar for many years, and says she feels very lucky that she is able to give some of her time to helping. "I feel I am doing a really worthwhile job," she said.

If you feel you would enjoy volunteering in the bustle of a busy new hospital site, and you can spare a couple of hours a week, why not contact Miss Hughes. You can contact her on 01865 771945 or email lof-ch@orh.nhs.uk