A TEAM of volunteer hospital drivers have racked up more than 8,000 journeys taking patients home and dropping off medication.

The free service from North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust has been so valued by grateful patients that nearly £8,500 has been donated to its charitable funds in thanks.

The service operates from 10am to 7pm on weekdays and on Saturdays from 10am to 1pm. The team of 23 drivers take patients home who have no lift and also deliver medication or equipment if needed.

They have been running since 2013, when they were set up to prevent delays caused by patients waiting for medication.

As Covid-19 struck, the service was suspended but quickly resumed with the drivers, who are tested for the virus and wear PPE, offering a new service of picking patients up from home to bring them into hospital for essential treatment such as chemotherapy, haematology and cardiology appointments.

Volunteer driver Tommy Young said: “When I put my volunteer badge on I feel proud to be part of this NHS team.

"I hope that my role as a volunteer can help do good for the patients we look after.”

Paul Wharton, volunteer coordinator, said: “The help from our drivers has supported vulnerable patients who have been shielding and reduced unnecessary visits to the hospital. It’s just a pleasure to work with such committed, unselfish people. They even use their own cars to perform this important task.

"We owe them so much.”

Drivers are also supporting with the trust’s food donation campaign by delivering generous donations from Trust staff and volunteers to local food banks.

Donations from grateful patients now stands at £8,462.62.

To find out more about volunteering with North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, visit: www.nth.nhs.uk/jobs/volunteer/