Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust (YAS) is looking for additional volunteers for its Volunteer Car Service which clocked up over 500,000 miles last year, helping patients to reach their vital hospital appointments across the region.
Volunteer Car Service drivers come from all walks of life and volunteer as and when they have some free time to collect and drive patients to important outpatient and clinic appointments. Over 80 drivers currently donate their time to the scheme, covering over 20,000 journeys each month, but there is no minimum time requirement to get involved.
Jo Halliwell, Associate Director of the Patient Transport Service at YAS commented: “Our Volunteer Car Service drivers offer a valuable service to the Trust, supporting the wider work of our non-emergency Patient Transport Service and helping eligible patients to get to and from essential medical appointments.
“The scheme offers the opportunity to make new friends, learn new skills, face new challenges and gain experience volunteering in the NHS. Many of our volunteers have made lifelong friends through their work at the Trust and list meeting new people and doing something worthwhile to help others as some of the key benefits of getting involved.”
To join the Trust’s Volunteer Car Service, you need to be aged 18 or over, hold a valid, full UK driving licence with no more than three penalty points, have access to a car with a minimum of four doors, be happy to undertake a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check and have an occupational health screening.
Full training is provided and volunteers are reimbursed for the cost of miles covered under the scheme.
Jo Halliwell added: “Our volunteers covered over half a million miles last year, mainly in Yorkshire and the Humber but also including a handful of trips to Exeter, London, Guildford and Scotland – a truly amazing result and something that is greatly appreciated by both the Trust and our patients.
“We are aiming to increase the number of volunteer drivers to around 250 by spring 2015 so we can extend the service to more patients who need help in getting around. We’d love to hear from anyone interested in joining the scheme and making a real difference to the lives of patients in Yorkshire and the Humber.”
For more information on joining the Voluntary Car Service, visit http://www.yas.nhs.uk/OurServices/Volunteering/VCS.html
Former taxi driver Malcolm Robinson, 66, has been a Volunteer Car Service (VCS) driver for over 30 years and was ‘Highly Commended’ for his services to the scheme in the Trust’s 2013 WE CARE recognition awards.
Malcolm first volunteered in 1981 following his father’s fight with lung cancer. A dad of three girls with a busy taxi firm to run, Malcolm did what he could in the early years and explains: “Back in those days there wasn’t the same level of demand for ambulance transport and I’d be asked to help out with jobs as and when they came up; it’s a different story nowadays.”
As the children grew up, Malcolm increased his hours as a volunteer driver, choosing to drive on a daily basis when he sold his taxi company in the 1990s and volunteering on weekdays and weekends to transport patients to their appointments.
“I was used to the early starts and the hours on the road; being a taxi driver was good training for being a VCS driver and the opportunity to be involved in something worthwhile was important to me.”
Malcolm gave up the weekend journeys six years ago and now volunteers Monday to Friday, often transporting the same people to regular appointments.
Malcolm added: “I see the same folk each week when I take them to their appointments – usually dialysis and cancer treatment – and spent 17 years transporting one chap who sadly passed away a few years ago.
“The role offers a good opportunity for those who enjoy helping people and although I put the hours in, most members of the Volunteer Car Service do a few journeys here and there when they can.
“The most important thing about volunteering for YAS in this capacity is the difference you can make to people. I’m no Mother Teresa, I can’t solve everyone’s problems and I wouldn’t attempt to try, but I can be the friendly face that picks them up every Tuesday morning.
“These are people, not packages wrapped in brown paper, and I’m your usual family man – not a do-gooder or anyone particularly special.”
Associate Director of the Trust’s Patient Transport Service Jo Halliwell added: “Malcolm is very modest about the hours of service he donates to the Trust and he is thought of as very special to us and those he transports each week.
“He covers more miles than most, roughly between 250-300 miles a day, and has taken patients all over the country to ensure they get the care they need. Without the help of kind individuals like Malcolm, many people would struggle to get to essential appointments and we are delighted to have him as a member of the VCS team.”
Malcolm is pragmatic about his voluntary work. Like all VCS drivers, he is reimbursed for his mileage, but it’s not about the money: “This is what I do,” he added, “these people need the help of someone to get the care they need and I’m happy to help. I’ve been behind a wheel for most of my working life, but the VCS is much more rewarding than the taxi driving and it slots around my family life, giving me the best balance of a worthwhile role and the time to enjoy those who are important to me.”
Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust covers almost 6,000 square miles of varied terrain from isolated moors and dales to urban areas, coastline and inner cities and provides 24-hour emergency and healthcare services to a population of more than five million people. The organisation receives an average of 2,180 emergency and urgent calls per day and employs over 4,600 staff. Our Patient Transport Service makes just under one million journeys per year transporting patients to and from hospital and treatment centre appointments.