“I’m proud to be responsible for two vital transport services provided by Westbank Community Health and Care. Our award-winning Neighbourhood Friends volunteers help people across Devon by supporting the smooth discharge from hospitals of patients who don’t have friends or family to take them home. This funded contract ensures our volunteers can also provide other services to help people recover after a hospital stay, like picking up basic groceries or moving their bed downstairs temporarily.

Our wonderful unpaid helpers also provide another more localised Patient Transport service, funded solely by donations, that costs us around £30,000 a year to run. This service supports people in and around Exminster, specifically, patients registered with a local GP practice (coincidentally also called Westbank!), which has surgeries in Exminster and Starcross. It’s a lifeline for those who need a bit of extra help, in particular the elderly and those with limited mobility who can’t call on friends or family to drive them.

Registered patients can contact us if they need a lift to and from a healthcare appointment.  We do our utmost to connect them with a volunteer driver, and I’m pleased to say we nearly always succeed. While the transport is free at the point of service, patients can make a donation if they wish, and many do. We provide donation envelopes so that people can put in what they can afford.

We fundraise to make up the shortfall and are always grateful for donations and legacies to keep our volunteer drivers on the road and helping those in need. Our team also offers reassurance, a friendly face and a guiding arm, if needed. We reimburse volunteers for their mileage - they use their own vehicles, so the service is only suitable for people able to get in and out of a car. 

In November 2022, our volunteers provided 94 return journeys, driving 655 miles. Two paid staff members, who work across both transport services, travelled a further 530 miles providing Patient Transport within the local community. As well as transportation, we pick up prescriptions from the pharmacy, do their shopping and collect produce to top up our food bank and community larder. We also provide transport for people to attend our activities and events. Our service users tell us they don’t know what they would do without this support.

I enjoy being able to make a difference to people's lives. Just the other day, a couple came to us seeking help for a neighbour, a lady in her sixties who lives alone and is currently stuck at home. After gaining her consent for us to get involved, we discussed what help she needed. I was able to signpost her to other support services, including assessment for social care and social prescribing activities. I also arranged for a food parcel to be delivered.

This lady is someone who would never normally ask for help and she was concerned she might be depriving a family by accepting a food parcel. She was grateful her neighbours had set the ball rolling though and that we were able to help. For me and my team, it’s why we do what we do.” 

If you would consider supporting our charity through volunteering or by making a donation or legacy, please have a further look around our website. 

Article from The Moorlander newspaper