Day Hospice nurses Linda Smith and Clare Rose with drivers
Graham Butler, Jenny Buchan and Judy Brookfield
As part of an effort to reduce costs and improve patient care, Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice this week launched an urgent appeal for new volunteer drivers.
The initiative is part of an ongoing review of spending amid a tough economic climate in which charitable giving has come under great pressure.
The hospice, which serves patients with life-limiting illnesses across Birmingham and Sandwell, aims to recruit 10 volunteer drivers in an effort to reduce its reliance on taxis and ambulances, which are costing the charity more than £10,000 annually.
Birmingham St Mary’s began using these services a couple of years ago on a temporary basis with a view to replacing them with volunteers. But repeated attempts to recruit volunteers failed to attract enough would-be drivers.
However, not only would volunteers save the charity thousands of pounds, but in this highly rewarding role they would help improve care as regular volunteer drivers establish a close relationship with patients.
Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice Voluntary Services Manager Sharon Harkin said: “The taxis, while providing a good service, do not provide the same drivers all the time so patients never get to know them, which is vital really. And combined with the ambulances, transport is costing the charity thousands of pounds each year which could be spent on clinical care.
"Volunteer drivers make a massive contribution to Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice. Ferrying a patient from their home to the hospice offers much more than a car journey. It gives patients the chance to get out of their homes and see the city, see life, see changes that are happening and make them feel in touch with the community. It is undoubtedly a form of unacknowledged therapy.”
Sharon added that according to Volunteering England, more people than ever before are looking to do volunteering." This recruitment drive will help to create new capacity for those wanting to give something back," she said.
The hospice currently has 18 volunteer drivers, some of whom have been with the organisation for more than 10 years. Between them they are estimated to contribute over 4,000 hours per year, saving £32,365.
Volunteer driver Jenny Buchan, aged 69, from Harborne and a former teacher, has ferried patients to and from Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice for 12-and-a-half-years.
She said: “I got involved after a friend who had cancer was cared for by the hospice’s home care nurses. I heard they needed volunteer drivers and decided to sign up – and I really enjoy it.
“Over the years I’ve met so many lovely people, and I know from talking to the patients that this service means so much to them. Many live alone and struggle to get out on their own, so it does have a huge impact on their lives. If you're thinking of doing some voluntary work, this is a great option.”
Cancer patient Olive Collins, aged 70, of Smethwick , agreed with Jenny. She said: “The service the volunteer drivers provide is superb. It’s more than just a ride to the hospice, they come and collect you from your home and check that you’re ok.
”It also means I can get out of the house and see the city, which would be very difficult without help.”
Olive added: “If they didn’t have these drivers I wouldn’t be able to get to the hospice and it means a great deal to me. It offers peace of mind knowing that if I have any medical issues there’s advice and support available and there’s a range of complementary therapies that do a lot for me.”
The volunteer drivers collect patients from their homes in the morning and take them to Birmingham St Mary’s Day Hospice in Selly Park . They also take the patients home again at the end of their day at around 3pm.
With people leading such busy lives, the hospice encourages its volunteers to volunteer when it suits them rather than take on the pressure of giving up their time on a set number of days each week. Volunteer drivers can also claim a mileage allowance if they use their own vehicle.
For further information about becoming a volunteer driver at Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice please telephone Voluntary Services on 0121 472 1191 or email firstname.lastname@example.org , or go to website: http://www.bsmh.org.uk/