Somerset County Council’s fleet drivers are going the extra mile – and beyond – by helping some of the most vulnerable across the county.
The fleet drivers, who usually provide a range of passenger transport services, are now part of the co-ordinated Coronavirus response. They are carrying out key work taking patients with serious health conditions to vital medical appointments as well as or delivering school meals and supplies of PPE across the county.
The County Council has leased a fleet of 21 specially adapted wheelchair-accessible vehicles. The new vehicles have been fitted with bulkheads to separate the driver from the patient and reduce the risk of cross infection. These are now being used by some of our most vulnerable patient groups, including those who need to access renal and oncology services.
Drivers are kitted out with personal protective equipment (PPE) to make sure they and their passengers remain as safe as possible.
Most patient transport is normally provided by Somerset’s fantastic volunteer drivers using their own unadapted vehicles. As a temporary measure, they have been asked to step back from duties in order to keep both themselves and our patients as safe as possible.
Councillor John Woodman, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, said: “Our fleet drivers have stepped into the breach in these very challenging times and have willingly come forward to the front line by providing this vital service. I would like to thank them for their dedication and for going that extra mile.
“I would urge people to continue to help protect the NHS and key workers like our drivers by staying home to save lives.”
Simon Edwards, Head of Acute and Community Contracts at Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “The focus has been very much on maintaining access to clinical support and keeping our patients safe. The speed with which these drivers and fleet have been pulled together is exemplary and a great example of NHS and local authority joint working.”
The Somerset Coronavirus Support Helpline – 0300 790 6275 – staffed by the county and district councils’ customer contact centres, is open from 8am-6pm seven days a week. It provides a single contact number for those wanting to access any local authority help they may need, including emotional support, in the current crisis.