Volunteers step up to support Somerset patients

Quantock rangers were among the community-minded heroes this weekend, who joined forces with the Somerset County Council’s volunteer drivers and transport team, to help drive dialysis patients to renal units in Taunton, Yeovil and Frome.

In the face of snow and ice, hazardous driving conditions and closed roads, every available 4×4 was sought by Somerset County Council to ensure patients made their appointments, with Quantock rangers, SCC volunteer drivers and transport team ferrying people to and from dialysis centres. The 4×4 drivers braved artic conditions, to support the emergency services and other response partners.

Owen Jones and Andy Stevenson, rangers from the Quantock HiIls AONB service, were amongst the volunteers who stepped forward from their usual duties. Andy told us: “We were carrying out our normal rounds, checking on the Exmoor ponies at Cothelstone Hill, when we received the call from our colleagues at Somerset Local Authority Civil Contingencies. We spent the day transporting patients from Ilminster and the Quantocks to the specialised dialysis unit at Creech Castle in Taunton. It was a tricky task but we were delighted to help support such vital services and to lend out our vehicles throughout the weekend to NHS staff, who would have found travelling in the bad weather otherwise impossible.”

David Fothergill Leader of the County Council said: “I’d like to thank each and every one of the volunteers who stepped up to help their community this weekend. These included Wessex 4×4 response, the Plymouth Brethen Rapid Response Team, Rotary International, St John Ambulance, Somerset Coast Fleet drivers, as well as members of the public who came forward to help.

“Our volunteers are invaluable, making our communities stronger and better. They provide extra support to our own staff in a range of tasks and services, enhancing our services whilst giving something back to Somerset communities. But we always need more!”

These groups stepped forward after the usual drivers were unable to carry out their normal service, due to the extreme weather conditions. Many of these journeys are usually carried out by volunteer drivers.

There are over 175 volunteer drivers in Somerset who drive people to vital medical appointments. Volunteer drivers need to commit to at least one to two days per week, be aged over 18, hold a full UK driving licence and have use of your own four-door vehicle. Drivers can claim up to 50p per mile for expenses. We have a number of volunteer opportunities available across a broad range of services if you have some time to spare and a willingness to help your community. Check out https://www.somersetvolunteer.co.uk/ or www.somerset.gov.uk/volunteering for more details on all Somerset County Council’s volunteering opportunities.

The hard work and dedication from the SCC transport team also continues to help clear any rescheduled trips; normal service is expected to resume regarding dialysis transport, but patients and carers are still advised to check www.somerset.gov.uk/badweathertransport for the most up to date information.