A VOLUNTEER transport scheme which has been vital in getting vulnerable patients to hospital appointments is back on the road after closing amid the covid-19 pandemic.

The Welly Hopper is volunteer-led and aims to deliver on its promise to help patients in Wellington get to their doctors and hospital appointments three days a week.

The service first started in 2019 and was only operating for a few months before lockdown was enforced, posing challenges to services and businesses alike.

Erica Adams founded the scheme after hearing doctors' practices were recruiting small groups of volunteer drivers to give patients lifts to appointments they’d otherwise struggle to attend.

Erica said: “We were stewarding for the flu clinics at our service and they were helping this poor lady, who looked absolutely done in.

Erica Adams, Welly Hopper founder
Erica Adams, Welly Hopper founder (James Griffiths)

“She sank down into a chair, and I said are you all right, can I help? Oh, she said, I've had a terrible journey. She only lived near the sports centre in Wellington, and had to cross the road by catching the bus service.”

Assistant Coordinator, Jo, said: “The service needs to be provided and volunteers are going to be the way to make it work, that's the way it has to be.”

A service user, who wanted to remain unnamed, said: “I didn't know about it until about six months ago. Some friends told me about it through word of mouth, and I thought it sounded good.”

The patient had a cancer scare in November 2023 and was required frequent visits to hospital. 

Not wanting to burden family members, she contacted the Welly Hopper transport scheme for assistance.

The patient said: “In September I had to go to the medical centre for treatment, and I thought there must be an easier way, and then I remembered the Welly Hopper, and so I've been using it ever since.”

“I hate relying on family members because I've always been so independent.

“I find that with the Welly Hopper, you can build up an acquaintance with your driver. I wouldn't be without them.”

Volunteer Christine, who drives full time for the Welly Hopper, said: “Nine times out of ten there's no other means of transport to get them to appointments and the beauty of our help is it's door to door.

“I just love doing it. I feel I've been useful. I love the stories that the patients come out with. I can see their problems and their difficulties in getting from A to B.”

Erica, who also volunteer drives for the service, said: “The scheme runs on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and charges patients 25p a mile or a minimum charge of £2.50.”

Drivers are paid 45p per mile to cover the cost of fuel.

The scheme is actively recruiting more volunteer drivers and wants to hear from you. People who are interested in becoming a volunteer driver and offering vital assistance to patients in the Wellington community, are urged to contact Erica on 01823 669022.