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Tony Roper Volunteers Week 2019

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A VOLUNTEER CAR DRIVER

As a volunteer, my working day usually starts the night before. My work for the following day arrives on my home computer about 5:30pm; I can then go on to Google Maps and plan my route.

My first job could be from anywhere going to anywhere, so knowing what time the first patient has to be at the hospital and where he/she lives is essential, as I need to know what time I have to leave home, and how long it could take to get there, taking rush hour traffic into consideration and road works, etc.

Our work doesn’t come on to my NHS phone until after midnight, because we are using the same system as the patient transport ambulances, and they are still on the road till about 11:30pm, taking home late dialysis patients. If they were to send the work any earlier, it would wipe all their information off their phones. So it has to be sent after midnight, and I’m not going to wait up till then just to find out what time I have to get up.

In the morning, I open my works phone using my password and call sign to find it now has all the jobs that were on the list I took from my computer. I can then check the patients’ mobility notes. These tell us whether the patient needs assistance to and from the ward or if they need a wheelchair, or indeed anything that might help us with the transporting of that patient.

I might have two or three patients to pick up for my first journey. For example, my first patient could live in Windsor, my second patient in Langley and my third in Burnham, and all three have to be at the Churchill Hospital, Oxford, by 9:30am.

Before leaving home I would phone the first patient a) to tell them approximately when I will be arriving, and b) to find out whether they are still going to hospital. You would be surprised how many people either forget they are going or decide at the last moment that they are too ill to travel.

I take my mileage and zero my odometer, so I will know at the end of the day how many miles I have travelled (we get paid by the mile) then set off to my first job. If I don’t know how to get to my patients, there is a SatNav on the phone that will automatically find you directions and navigate you to your destination.

When I arrive at the Churchill Hospital and drop my patients off, I might have time for a quick cup of tea with other volunteer colleagues, before my next patient out from the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, at 10:30am. This patient could be going to Newbury, but I could also have another patient to collect from the Nuffield Hospital who is going to Didcot. This patient won’t be ready until 11:00am. It only takes a few minutes to get from one hospital to another, so again you have to think about which patient to collect first, trying not to keep anyone waiting too long; also you don’t want people sitting in your car for any longer than necessary. I sometimes give a patient my telephone number if I know I am going to pick them up later, so when they are ready, they can phone me and I can give them some idea how long it will be before I arrive to collect them. Also, it gives the patient peace of mind that someone is coming back to pick them up.

On collecting the patients I would then drive them to their destinations, Didcot and Newbury. All the runs have to be logged with times of arrival and leaving; this is done quite easily on the NHS phone by pressing appropriate buttons.

The next job could be taking a patient from King Edward VII Hospital in Windsor to Slough, the patient being ready for collection at 2:00pm. I would have to travel from Newbury to Windsor and collect the patient and take them home to Slough.

My next job might entail me having to go back to Oxford to pick up a couple of patients to take back to Reading and Earley. This should conclude my working day and I can now go home. Or if you still want to work on, you can phone the control and they can sometimes have another job for you; but that’s entirely up to you.

When I get home, I take my mileage reading and record it on my monthly claims form along with any expenses I have accrued. Put the kettle on or pour myself a nice glass of wine, knowing that I have helped in a small way some very unfortunate people who need medical assistance.

If you’d like to find out more about becoming a volunteer car driver like Tony and join our team, visit www.scas.nhs.uk/volunteer-car-driver or call our 24-hour answerphone on 07585 981 465 and leave a short message with your contact details.