A HOSPITAL tea bar is searching for volunteers -after it had to close following the retirement of long-serving helpers.

The counter served drinks and snacks to patients visiting clinics in the Escomb Road annexe of Bishop Auckland General Hospital.

It shut on Friday when Eileen Wray, from Shildon, had to give up because of ill-health.

She has done similar unpaid work at the hospital for more than 20 years, starting as a League of Friends helper in the outpatient department.

She was a member of the Women's Royal Voluntary Service team before taking up a post in the hospital shop for the Bishop Auckland Hospital's voluntary service.

She also helped organise drinks trolleys round the wards.

Mrs Wary said: "I would love to come back because I will miss it. It really is tea and sympathy for people who might be worried about being at the clinic.

"It is somewhere they can chat while they wait, so it can help them if they are nervous.

"It has helped me as well. I have made a lot of friends and I will miss them."

Muriel Coatsworth and Margaret Lee also stepped down last week after supporting the hospital for 15 years.

Anyone who would like to give up a few hours a week to work in the tea bar can telephone the voluntary services office on (01388) 455832.