As NHS relies more on volunteers, new report shows community car schemes in Devon under severe pressure

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The CCGs and hospital trusts like the RD&E are increasingly relying on voluntary community activity to support the NHS. However some existing voluntary services are under severe pressure.

NDVS car schemes.pngA new report by Tim Lamerton and Jo McDonald for NDVS, Community Car Schemes in Devon: State of the Sector 2018, documents the huge volunteer effort that goes into keeping people without their own cars moving throughout the County – especially to access healthcare. It also underlines a real crisis in this activity, which it estimates saves the NHS some £6.7m per year. These are quotes from the report:

  • What had been a valuable and pleasurable activity has become, at times, a stressful, highly skilled environment in which to volunteer, relied upon by passengers who have no other transport choices
  • The profile of their passengers is changing. They are older and increasingly frail, often living with multiple conditions. For example, they have reduced mobility and/or memory loss, often causing considerable concern to drivers.
  • The drivers are themselves also becoming older and more frail. They report finding the stress and effort involved with helping passengers attend medical appointments, often at busy main hospitals, is increasing to almost intolerable levels.
  • Job satisfaction managing schemes is reducing due to increased work-related stress.
  • Some schemes are also finding it increasingly difficult and time consuming to recruit volunteers; removing the sense of personal fulfilment and fun from being a driver is making this much more difficult.
  • Funding to a number of schemes across Devon has been reduced or cut by the CCGs with little or no notice. At least one surgery based scheme has been forced to close, putting immediate pressure on other providers on the area. Managers of schemes are finding such lack of consultation, and of investment, increasingly frustrating.
  • Schemes are also reporting a rising expectation amongst hospital staff that they can provide an increasing range of services at very little notice. They report that many NHS staff appear to have no knowledge of the role, purpose or motivations of car schemes and do not understand that they are not there to provide an immediate, on demand, taxi service.