‘We’re a lifeline’: Northampton charity urgently appealing for more voluntary drivers to take residents to medical appointments

The charity needs drivers to be a ‘friendly face and a listening ear’

Friday, 18th June 2021, 7:45 am

A Northampton charity that provides medical appointment transport for elderly and vulnerable residents is urgently seeking more voluntary drivers.

Northampton Community Transport takes people who are unable to drive or walk to bus stops to medical and wellbeing appointments.

Prior to the pandemic and several lockdowns, the charity facilitated around 12,000 return journeys each year with a pool of 36 volunteer drivers working at least half a day a week.

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Teresa is a volunteer driver.

Now, due to the effects of the last year, driver numbers have dropped to 14, which is why bosses are urgently appealing for more volunteers to come forward so passengers are not let down.

Sally Jones, community transport manager, said: “During Covid our driver numbers have reduced dramatically.

“I think some are nervous, quite rightly, some have been ill and can’t come back, some have rethought what time they have.

“Most of our passengers have mobility issues and will need a taxi to their appointments as they can’t walk to the bus stop, but they are expensive and do not offer the level of support we do.

Bob also volunteers his time to take residents to medical appointments.

“We’re a lifeline and we don’t want to let people down.

“We want to keep going but we just need drivers to be willing to help their community.”

The charity’s longest serving volunteer has been driving passengers to medical appointments for 21 years and even worked five days a week during the pandemic also turning his hands to prescriptions deliveries and more.

Although passenger journeys dropped to around 6,000 last year, numbers are now rising again as non-urgent appointments are restarted.

So Sally is hoping the recruitment push will grow her team to include around 40 drivers.

She added: “We do things for mental health too, like day centres, fitness groups, mindfulness art classes and anything else to help their wellbeing.

“Now we just need more drivers to be a friendly face and a listening ear.

“Some volunteering is very flexible, but we need a bit of commitment. We need half a day a week as a minimum.

Drivers are giving something back, but they also get to meet wonderful, different people everyday and hear their stories.

“It’s really rewarding and a really good way to help people.”

Some drivers do five days a week and others do half a day a week, but Sally says the volunteering can be flexible around other commitments.

The requirements are that drivers need to have been driving for five years and have their own car.

They will be subject to a DBS check and doctor’s fitness check and will be paid 45p per mile completed for a passenger’s medical appointment. Insurance premiums should not increase for charity driving.

To find out more and volunteer your time, email [email protected] or phone 01604 628234.