A Denny and Bonnybridge charity which has been providing free transport for cancer patients for over a decade is stepping up a gear this year.
Now, as well as reaching the major landmark of clocking up half a million miles for hundreds of patients, The Driving Force is now offering more services for people – including podiatry, chiropody and hairdressing in their own homes for those receiving radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
‘We have also just passed the half a million miles travelled mark’
They will also be able to take advantage of a range of therapies like massage, Reiki, aromatherapy and mindfulness, also in the comfort of their own homes.
Dr Bridget McCalister, The Driving Force secretary and founder, said: “We have just started to offer these complementary therapies – hairdressing, podiatry and manicures – to people in their own homes and we are keen as many people as possible know about us so we can help everyone who needs it.
“We have also just passed the half a million miles travelled mark.”
Since its formation 13 years ago, the charity has become an invaluable service to people who otherwise may struggle to attend their hospital or GP appointments.
A spokesperson for The Driving Force said: “Anybody with cancer, who is registered at either Bonnybridge, Banknock, Denny Cross, or Carronbank Health Centres, can use our drivers to take them to and from hospital appointments and treatment sessions for cancer.
“The service is free, people are collected from their homes, taken straight to the hospital and brought straight home. If they wish, a friend or relative can go with them. We have a wheelchair for the frail.
“On receiving their appointment people contact their doctor’s reception and leave their name and phone number. Once a day a coordinator contacts the surgeries and collects everyone’s details, then they phone the patients and find out the appointment times and any special requirements.
“The coordinator then finds a driver for each journey, and contacts the patient with the driver’s name and phone number – for use in emergencies. Shortly before the appointment the driver contacts the patient and arranges with them the time they need to be picked up.
“This means people know exactly who is taking them to hospital and when they need to be ready. On the day, the driver waits at the hospital and when the appointment is over takes the person straight home.”
It’s a simple and effective system, but it requires committed volunteer drivers to make it work.
“Hospital transport takes many patients in the same vehicle so people have a long, slow journey,” said a Driving Force spokesperson. “They have to wait until everyone has been seen before they can go home and can be out of the house most of the day, at a time when they are not well.
“There is not always room for a carer or friend to accompany them. People who travel with us have a much quicker, more comfortable journey, can go home when they are ready and will be able to take a friend if they wish.
“Our drivers ‘know the ropes’ and provide valuable reassurance. We aim to provide a free, friendly and reliable means of getting to and from hospital, and to make the experience as pleasant and stress-free as possible.”
Dr McCalister established The Driving Force in Bonnybridge after she heard of a similar scheme being operated in Lanarkshire.
She said: “I felt that this type of service would be very helpful in my area.”
A group of volunteers met for the first time in April 2005 and, for the next nine months, they applied for grants, arranged disclosures and trained volunteers before taking their first patient to hospital in January 2006.
Two years later they had enough volunteers and funds to expand to the neighbouring town of Denny and The Driving Force was named community project of the year in the Scottish Television’s Real Heroes Awards in 2014.
At the time, following the announcement of the awards shortlist, Taggart actor Alex Norton was filmed spending a day at the charity, working alongside local volunteer Roy Wardlaw.
Following a public vote, the organisation collected its award from actor Bill Paterson and sponsors RBS at a ceremony in Glasgow.
Dr McAllister said: “Everyone involved with the charity is thrilled we received this award. It has given us a real boost and is fantastic recognition of all the hard work our volunteers do.
“Just as importantly, it has raised our profile locally which is really crucial as we want to be able to help everyone in Bonnybridge and Denny who has cancer and needs our help.”
Elizabeth Partyka, of STV, said: “Congratulations to Driving Force for winning a much-deserved Scotland’s Real Heroes Award. The series has been a fantastic celebration of remarkable Scots who go the extra mile to improve the lives of others.”
Visit www.bdthedrivingforce.org.uk or call (01324) 812315 if you want more information on the charity or ask at your GP reception.