service

Dumfries volunteers celebrate 21 years of lifeline service

A team of dedicated volunteers who help patients get to hospital for cancer treatment have celebrated 21 years of providing the lifeline service in Dumfries and Galloway.

The volunteers for charity St John Scotland give up their own time to drive patients from across the county to access treatments in the central belt.

For the patients, it’s a lifeline service which means they don’t have to worry about negotiating public transport, or relying on friends and family for lifts to and from their regular appointments.

For some patients who experience debilitating side effects from their treatment, it means they can travel in comfort, and have the reassurance of a familiar friendly face on the regular journeys.

The service started taking cancer patients and their relatives to Edinburgh’s Western General in 1998, and since then have covered 200,000 miles and helped more than 2,000 patients. Over that period, a team of 21 drivers, plus co-ordinators and other helpers, have given up countless hours of their own time to assist hundreds of local patients.

The team celebrated their 21st anniversary this week, marking the occasion at the Woodland House Hotel in Dumfries where they were joined by representatives from NHS Dumfries and Galloway. It follows a similar event last month for the neighbouring team of St John Scotland volunteers based in Stranraer.

From left: Michael Cook, Chair of St John Scotland’s Dumfries area committee, and Major General Mark Strudwick, Prior of St John Scotland, cut the celebratory cake

The charity’s Chief Executive, Angus Loudon, congratulated the Patient Transport volunteers on their achievement, saying: “The dedicated team in Dumfries and Galloway are a shining example of the inspiring things that can be achieved by volunteers. We’re incredibly proud that they make such a difference in their community, going out of their way to make life easier for people who are going through what can be a very tough time of their lives following a cancer diagnosis.”

He continued: “We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the drivers, past and present, as well as the co-ordinators and those behind the scenes who put in so much time and effort to make sure the service runs smoothly for patients, and have done for the past two decades. We look forward to continuing this essential service into the future.”

The Chair of St John Scotland’s Dumfries and Galloway area, Michael Cook, said: “Our volunteer drivers do a wonderful job providing a free, stress-free journey to and from hospital for oncology patients from Dumfries and Galloway whenever they need it. We cannot thank them enough.”

A spokesperson for NHS Dumfries and Galloway said: “We would like to extend our congratulations to the Dumfries team from St John Scotland on their 21st anniversary. The service these dedicated volunteers provide to people within our region is invaluable – always reliable, friendly and supportive.

“We enjoy working closely with St John Scotland, and look forward to continuing our collaborative approach in the years to come.”

As they mark their milestone achievement, St John Scotland also hope to begin providing transport for patients to access renal dialysis treatments across the area. Any potential volunteer drivers interested in finding out more about how to get involved can contact the team at volunteer@stjohnscotland.org.uk