A DROP in the number of volunteer ambulance car drivers across Oxfordshire has sparked a plea for more help.

South Central Ambulance Service’s drivers have completed 19,800 trips over the last year.

But in the last three years the number of volunteers in Oxfordshire has dropped from 45 to just 28 drivers.

The drivers take patients to and from outpatient appointments as part of SCAS NHS Foundation Trust’s non-emergency patient transport service.

The trust is based in Talisman Road, Bicester.

Senior operations manager Dianna Ball said: “Often the treatment they are having puts significant stress on patients. To offer them a car that takes them from their home to their appointment has a big impact in helping them with their condition.”

Ms Ball added that most volunteers are either semi-retired or retired.

She said: “I think the drop is the result of people working more, and longer, than they used to.”

Volunteer driver Alan Evans and his partner Stella Gardner, who are both retired, have been helping out for 13 and eight years respectively.

Mr Evans said: “I found it very satisfying helping out the community and people in need because of illness.

“You do, unfortunately, find those who are living on borrowed time, and their treatment is trying to help them prolong their life with radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

“At the end of their treatments a lot of the patients write cards thanking drivers for making journeys joyful.

“I meet some lovely people and always try to put a smile on their face and have a laugh with them.

“I wouldn’t like to guess the number of people I have driven over the years – thousands probably.”

Retired secretary Ms Gardner said: “Being a volunteer ambulance car driver regularly taking patients for dialysis and radiotherapy makes you feel very grateful for your own health. “And it’s very satisfying to know that you’re making a difference to them by making it easier for them to travel to and from appointments.”

To help you need a full, and preferably clean, driving licence and have use of a ‘suitable’ vehicle. Expenses are paid.

l To find out more ring 02380 246173 or email volunteer.cardriver@scas.nhs.uk