Minchinhampton Surgery PPG

If you can’t drive, and don’t have anyone close to drive you, getting to a medical or dental appointment can be an extra worry. Similar problems can happen if you need to visit someone ill in hospital. This is when the Minchinhampton PPG may be able to help you, with our scheme for driving patients, mainly to and from appointments. We also drive those who need our help to visit a relative in hospital. ‘PPG’, if you aren’t sure, stands for Patient Participation Group.

These days, every Surgery has a PPG, but few of them offer a scheme for driving patients or key visitors. Ours was one of the first. As patients, we aim to assist other patients and Surgery staff in various ways, improving communication and promoting health. All Minchinhampton Surgery patients belong to the PPG, although not all are active members.

Minchinhampton Surgery PPG organises our local driving scheme. It’s for Minchinhampton Surgery patients only. Surprisingly, it isn’t as well known or as well understood as it deserves to be, so here are some important features. If you have an opportunity to pass them on to others, please do.

Anyone who is registered as a patient at Minchinhampton Surgery is eligible to use our PPG patient transport scheme. We can drive you to and from Minchinhampton Surgery of course, but also many other medical treatment centres. We drive patients or visitors to hospitals including Stroud, Cirencester, Tetbury, Gloucester and Cheltenham, but not only these. We can also drive people to dentists, opticians, physiotherapists, podiatrists or other recognized clinics, so long as these are within a reasonable area.

We do have a few restrictions, so as to protect everyone. You, perhaps with your usual helper, must be able to get yourself ready for your journey, as drivers must not do this. You must be able to walk to and from the car, at both ends of your journey, as drivers are not an ambulance or paramedic service, but non-professional volunteers. If needed, drivers can usually help you obtain a wheel-chair at the hospital and assist you with this or get assistance. However, please try to give notice of such needs or possible problems in advance. We can usually also take along with you, if you wish, a relative, friend or care-assistant(s), so long as you ask us about this. Your driver will also discuss with you any arrangements needed for meeting after your appointment, for your return journey.

Patients or key visitors are charged 50 pence per mile for fuel, plus any parking charges that are needed. The driver allocated to you will be able to let you know in advance the cost for fuel and an estimate for parking charges, if needed. This is a not-for-profit service and drivers give their time and service freely. They are all patients of the Minchinhampton Surgery, and so members of our PPG, checked as suitable volunteers.

If you are able to give your driver in advance an estimate of the time your visit or treatment may take, this will be appreciated. However, drivers understand that quite often there will be some delay or extended waiting time for patients. Usually drivers will wait at the centre until the patient is ready to leave. In exceptional circumstances, a patient and driver may arrange for the driver to return when the patient is ready. However, drivers are responsible for driving patients home in a timely way after an appointment. As drivers we pride ourselves on getting patients to their appointment on time and getting them home again, without unnecessary delay. Other schemes may not manage to do this, even though more expensive.

If you wish to use our scheme, or to discuss an issue relating to possible use, here is the way to do so. It helps us greatly if you are able to ring us well in advance, although we do our best to respond sometimes with short notice, especially in case of an emergency, so long as an ambulance is not more appropriate. First you should phone 01453 887314. This number is also inside the front cover of the Parish Magazine, and in the Surgery and on the Surgery website. When you ring our number, you will probably hear an answer-phone. Please give your name, phone number, and when you will be in for calling back. These key details should be repeated slowly and clearly. This is all you need to record at the first stage of the process.

You should receive that evening a phone-call in response to your message. If not, ring the same number after 7.00 p.m. The organiser will at this stage need the following information: your address and postcode; where you need to visit – the surgery, hospital (with department or clinic) or other treatment centre; the date and time of your appointment; any relevant problems with mobility; any companion; and any other important details.

The organiser will then find a suitable driver, as near as possible to you. This driver will phone you as soon as possible to confirm the details and make appropriate arrangements. The miles charged for your journey take account of your distance from the driver’s home and back. The time you need to be collected from home can also be agreed with your driver. In the event of bad weather or problems with road-works, the driver may need to ring you again on the evening prior to your appointment, to see if your collection time can be changed. If you would like a reminder phone-call on the prior evening, please ask about this during the driver’s first phone-call. If you have an official disabled-person card and time-indicator for free parking, please remember to bring these, to reduce your parking costs.

If you wish to share any comment on your experience of using our scheme, please phone the same number after the event, to discuss this with the organiser. Our drivers, as members of the PPG, are required to respect patients’ confidentiality, as well as NHS staff’s confidentiality. If you wish to share with your driver anything about your experience of using either our scheme or the NHS, your driver may be able to advise you about how you may take this further, if you wish, as appropriate.

Our scheme has at present about 20 drivers. More are always welcome, so long as they can offer some appropriate flexibility. If you have a car, and some spare time, and no problems to do with driving safely, you might like to think about whether you could volunteer to help us by sharing some of the driving. If you would like to discuss any aspects of this, please ring our organiser’s number, given above. Our scheme also depends greatly on the three people who voluntarily share the work of organising all the driving, as well as themselves driving some patients. Many thanks to all of you already involved in this service.

Finally, don’t forget, if you need to use this service, please do not hesitate to ring our number: 01453 887314.
Ian McPherson (PPG secretary)