‘They have never let me down’

An ambulance car service driver for the North East Ambulance Service.
An ambulance car service driver for the North East Ambulance Service.

An ill mum who is battling kidney failure has nominated an ‘invaluable’ group of volunteers who help her attend vital hospital appointments, as part of this year’s Best of Northumberland Awards.

Jill Bell has been receiving treatment for five years after suffering an allergic reaction to ibuprofen.

The 56-year-old. who has had dialysis, has lost the use of one of her kidneys and is currently taking medication to stabilise the other.

As part of her battle, the mother-of-two from Newbiggin relies on ambulance car service drivers (ACS) from the North East Ambulance Service to take her to and from hospital. And she is so grateful for the help she has received, the grandmother-of-four has nominated the group of drivers who help her – and others – for the Volunteer of the Year award.

Ex-civil servant Jill said: “I really do rely on these drivers and I would find it very difficult without them. Thanks to them I have never missed an appointment.

“They have never let me down and nothing is too much trouble for them. There is quite a team of them and they are excellent.

“They come right to your door, take you straight to the hospital and they let my husband, Andy, travel with us. They are invaluable.”

ACS volunteers use their own vehicles to help with the transportation of patients to and from hospitals and clinics, thereby leaving ambulances free for emergencies and for patients too ill to travel by car. There are currently 200 volunteers throughout the North East, including 46 drivers covering Northumberland.

The volunteers’ hours differ depending on their availability, but can range from a few hours to a few days per week, starting as early as 5am and, on occasions, until the early hours of the morning. They give up their own time and only receive payment for expenses.

The annual Best of Northumberland Awards are a celebration of unsung community heroes. Readers are being encouraged to nominate individuals and groups in the county who go above and beyond the call of duty and/or show strength and courage in the face of adversity.

The awards, organised by Northeast Press and Tweeddale Press, are split into 12 categories. These are Sporting Achievement; Community Group; Community Champion; Child of Courage; Emergency Services Award; Role Model; Green Champion; Child of Achievement; Fund-raiser of the Year; Good Neighbour; Volunteer of the Year; Lifetime Contribution.

Visit www.jpne-events.co.uk/best-of-northumberland/ and nominate before the Thursday, August 27, deadline. The awards ceremony is at Linden Hall on Thursday, September 10.