A DRIVER scheme which helps hospital patients has become a huge success.
The volunteer driver service is being run for patients at the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, to help them access hospital services in a more convenient way.
And even though it was only launched last year, it has become massively popular with the people that it serves.
The scheme offers transport for patients who have difficulty getting to and from their hospital appointment.
It has become so popular that it is expanding, and drivers now have an office in the outpatients department at the University Hospital of North Tees.
On weekdays, between 1pm and 4pm, a small team of drivers will be based in this office.
The new facility will allow them to take calls from the trust’s service desk and collect patients at short notice who are waiting in hospital to be taken home.
Volunteer driver Colin Ogden, from Seaton Carew, is a retired former waste management manager at Hartlepool Borough Council.
The 57-year-old said: “Once patients have been to hospital for their treatment they just want to get back to their homes. This new service is fantastic because it means we are based on the hospital site for three hours a day, and are here to take patients home when needed.”
Fellow volunteer George Stephenson, 61, from Ingleby Barwick, is a semi-retired sales rep. He said: “The fact we are now based near the ward in the afternoon means patients do not have to wait for the service desk to call us and ask us to drive from our homes to collect them.”
Mr Stephenson added: “Staff from the discharge lounge can book a driver, and we are here to take people back to their homes.”
The North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust associate director of estates and facilities Peter Mitchell praised how well the scheme was working.
He said: “We are delighted with how the volunteer driver service has progressed over the last few months.
“Being able to offer an on-site service on weekday afternoons is just the latest step forward we have made as we look to develop the service.”
The trust provides hospital and community-based health care to around 365,000 people living in Hartlepool, East Durham and the surrounding areas.
Anyone wanting to book a driver under the new scheme should call the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust service desk on (01429) 522550.