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Ambulance car driver clocks up 45 years voluntary service.

In March 2013 Southampton resident Mrs Milly Stokes will clock up 45 years voluntary service as an ambulance car driver.

Back in 1968 when Milly started as a volunteer ambulance car driver for the Ambulance Car Service in Hampshire her children were aged 5 and 6 years and there were no mobile phones. She now has grand children and has her mobile with her at all times. Milly has received three long service awards, including one from University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust for 45 years of Outstanding Service, as well as special recognition from South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SCAS) in 2012 when she received an AMBIES* Special Award for four decades of exemplary voluntary service to patients.

Milly recalls some of the highlights of volunteering for the local ambulance service for the last forty five years:

'In my first 10 years I used to take three chaps from Netley Village to Knowle Hospital. Getting them there at 09.30am and transporting them back to Netley Village for 3.30pm enabled me to collect my kids from school.  

'I've transported a lady of 103 years of age and a young woman who showed me how to make sugar roses for celebration cakes. Then there was the 90 year old gentleman who refused a wheelchair and shared his experience of the First World War with me. I had to trot to keep up with him!'

'I've taken many patients for dialysis, chemotherapy and radiotherapy and especially remember one little girl I used to regularly take for cancer treatment until she was 5 years old. She'd come out of her treatment limp as a rag doll and is the only person I know who didn't lose their hair as a result of the treatment. Many years later I found out that she was expecting her first baby!'      

Volunteering as an ambulance car driver has taught Milly to appreciate the ordinary things in life such as doing your own housework, shopping and even walking upright.

Milly's advice to anyone thinking of becoming a voluntary ambulance car driver:

'The role is really rewarding, but be prepared for any waiting that you'll have to do. I do it for the love of it. I've seen different parts of Southampton I never knew existed and I've lived here all my life!'

Milly continues:

'I love driving. Volunteering as an ambulance car driver gives me a reason to go out so I'm not driving aimlessly, but going somewhere with a purpose and helping someone into the bargain. Like any role you have good and bad days. I've been out for 5 hours driving 36 miles but other days I've driven a single patient over 200 miles.'

'In 45 years I've only had a couple of days when I've wondered why am I doing this - days when everything goes wrong, it's raining, the car steams up and I can't find a spare wheelchair in an outpatients clinic for the patient I'm taking to and from their hospital appointment. Now I'm older than most of the patients I drive to their outpatient appointments. Yet most days I still get a tremendous sense of satisfaction from helping people who need help and really appreciate me.' 

South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust's Non-Emergency Patient Transport Service (PTS) employs 64 Contact Centre staff based at Bicester in Oxfordshire and at Otterbourne in Hampshire. This is in addition to 343 operational PTS staff across the four counties of Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Hampshire. The trust also has 127 registered volunteer ambulance car drivers across the South Central Region.

Doug Sinclair, Patient Transport Services, South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, said:

'Between 1 April and 31 December 2012 the trust's Non-Emergency Patient Transport Service undertook 318,029 patient journeys

'Our volunteer ambulance car drivers carry out an extremely important role  supporting the trust within our non-emergency Patient Transport Service by taking patients to and from hospital for outpatients appointments.

'All our volunteer drivers receive a mileage allowance for the work they do and normally spend most of their time working in their local area. Milly is a fine example of how our volunteer car drivers help us to care for our patients in the communities they live in.'

Any driver who may be interested in becoming a volunteer ambulance car driver is invited to telephone 02380 246173 Option 3 or to email volunteer.cardriver@scas.nhs.uk

Published 28 January 2013.

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