A fundraising group which supports the hospital is in line for a civic award and large cash boost.

The Friends of St Margaret's work hard to ensure patients at the Epping hospital are well looked after.

Over the decades the Friends have raised many thousands of pounds to buy equipment which the NHS could not supply, and helped the staff to give extra comfort and care to generations of patients.

Cuts to the NHS mean they are regularly asked for items including special beds and chairs, percussion instruments and cooking implements for therapy groups of recovering stroke patients, and specialist fall alarms costing several thousands pounds each.

In recognition of its excellent work Epping Town Council will give the group a civic award on April 12, coinciding with the its seventieth anniversary.

The group was founded a year after the NHS came into being when St. Margaret’s was a large general hospital.

News of the victory followed the end of a Tesco fundraising appeal titled 'Christmas on the Wards’ which saw customers donate £1,650.

Chairwoman Liz Jones said: "Thanks to the support of the supermarket and its Epping customers, patients in hospital over the Christmas period enjoyed festive cheer and gifts. "This made all the difference, especially for those patients who had no family or visitors."

On March 24 the Friends will host a spring lunch at Theydon Bois Village Hall from 11.30am.

There will also be stalls selling a wide range of greeting cards and and bric-a-brac, home-made jams, local honey and greeting cards, scarves and jewellery, and a big tombola.