Community Transport is Appealing!
Your Local Medical Transport Service.
Do You know about us and how we work? Even if you do, let us introduce ourselves…
Originally, transporting people to medical appointments was a scheme linked to the local surgery, Ashdown Forest Health Centre. The current service was launched by the Wealden District Council jointly with Forest Row Parish Council under the umbrella of the Parish Council, and went live in April 2021.
Our ‘mission statement’, is to help any resident of Forest Row and Ashurst Wood parishes, along with anyone who is a patient at Ashdown Forest Health Centre to get to medical appointments; we use volunteer drivers and co-ordinators, some of whom stayed on from the original scheme.
As with any voluntary scheme, we have evolved over the years; we are and always have been given virtually free hand in deciding how we operate. So we interpret ‘medical’ appointments very broadly to include dentists, opticians, physio and even spiritual healing and counselling as well as hospital visits, on the basis that anything which benefits physical and mental health can be seen as a ‘medical need’.
Our drivers, the lynch-pin of the service, have checks such as DBS when they join us as they will be driving older and on occasion, vulnerable people and need to take extra care. The Parish Council covers the cost of these checks and also has it’s own insurance covering us as, ultimately, it is responsible for us.
We still contact drivers on an individual basis, trip by trip, as we have found that works best for us as a relatively small organisation and accommodates well with their very varied availability. We know other schemes ask a driver to commit to a regular day or half day but we have felt that our approach gives us the best chance of covering a trip as well as giving drivers, some of whom are still in paid work, as much flexibility as possible. We are though open to the idea of increasing this flexibility via a computerised system.
There is a cost of 45p per mile to passengers, based on mileage from the driver’s home and ending there, together with a £1 admin fee which goes to the Parish Council towards the costs in supporting us.
We currently, and in theory, have 16 drivers although at any one time, substantially fewer are available; clearly the availability of drivers diminished in lockdown – thankfully the number of requests equally reduced so in essence we kept going, with full credit to those drivers still able to cover trips.
This is arguably an essential service for the local area; Ashdown Forest Health Centre took to sending patients our way when many found themselves unable to get to Crowborough for the vaccination programme via the awkward public transport journey, so in stepped our volunteers; every one a star!
We are fortunate to have had from the start the full-hearted support of the Parish Councils, as well as the loyal drivers. Post-Covid, though, transport requests are rising; the backlog of medical appointments is steadily increasing and there is a limit to how much the current volunteers can fit into their existing commitments and like all of us, they are not getting any younger!
We DO need more volunteers coming forward which prompts this appeal to all residents – it’s a fulfilling and practical role. Friendships are formed and it’s a great way to meet people. As we say, we will tailor out requests to the drivers preferences and other commitments as much as we can do so…
WILL YOU JOIN US?
Contact us via Forest Row Parish Council 01342 822 661 or for an informal chat call Brenda on 01342 823 827 or Sally on 07875 897 883.
We greatly look forward to hearing from you!