THE UK’s only voluntary wheelchair escort service is urging people across Swindon to join its ranks and brighten up patients’ visits to the Great Western Hospital.

The Royal Voluntary Service’s escort scheme sees 25 Samaritans welcome outpatients with disabilities or difficulties walking, offer them a hot drink and take them to and from appointments in the hospital.

Each month, the team ‘wheels’ between 600 and 650 people to and from clinics. Having recently lost a few members and with a growing number of patients attending GWH each year, the team is in desperate need of another 10 recruits.

At 7.15am every weekday, manager Des Jones, who took over the group five years ago, collects wheelchairs provided by the RVS from around the hospital ready for patients to arrive. He is joined by volunteers later in the morning, up until 4pm.

“Some people have left because of illness, or family illness and some got jobs so I’m short of volunteers now,” said the 67-year-old from Park North.

“I could do with another ten. We work hard here and we are the only ones in the UK to provide this service. At the moment volunteers are putting in extra hours, God bless them.

“We have three shifts a day and volunteers work at least two hours – it’s up to them if they want to do more. I’ve got a trainee doctor, a school teacher and an accountant working for me. It’s open to anyone.”

Volunteer Terry Hunt, 75, of Greenmeadow, who joined the team two years ago, said: “Most people coming to hospital don’t know where the clinics are so we help them find their way.

“You work with a great team and people like to see us. I get great satisfaction thinking I might be helping somebody.”

The team’s 24 wheelchairs are nearly 25 years old and the group is also looking for sponsors so new ones can be bought.

Call 07769 037657 or email andrewjones987@gmail. com