Patient Transport team awarded Queen's Award for Voluntary Service
A team of St John Scotland volunteers in West Galloway have been awarded the prestigious Queen's Award for Voluntary Service.
The Award aims to recognise outstanding work by local volunteer groups to benefit their communities, and is the highest award a local voluntary group can receive in the UK, equivalent to an MBE.
The St John Scotland Patient Transport Service in West Galloway was established in the 1990s to help local patients going through treatment for cancer get to Dumfries to link up with transport to Edinburgh.
Today, around a dozen volunteers deliver a service that helps patients make the complete journey from West Galloway to the central belt for treatment. Drivers pick up patients from their homes, travel around 100 miles or more to get them to hospital, wait for the patient to complete treatment, and take them home again.
The service was started with volunteers using their own vehicles, but due to the demand, in 2001 a dedicated people carrier was purchased to allow more journeys. This has since been joined by another vehicle, while volunteers continue using their own cars to transport patients as necessary.
As well as serving hospitals in Edinburgh and Glasgow, the team are often called upon to take patients to other centres including in Ayrshire and the north of England.
It's a service which is hugely appreciated by local patients, as this letter received from a patient makes clear:
"When I was diagnosed in March this year  one of the major concerns my wife and I had was how we were going to get back and forth from hospital appointments. I was unable to drive and my wife does not drive. Most family and friends are working. A friend suggested we contact St John Scotland, that they might be able to help.
"It really did take a great weight off our shoulders. I have to give a special mention to the drivers, nothing was too much trouble. If I was a bit late coming out of hospital it did not matter as long as I was comfortable, they took their time and got me home. They could sense when I wanted to talk or when you wanted a quiet time, a rare gift indeed. I will always be thankful to the team as they give up so much of their time to help others. Long may they continue with this fantastic work, they give so much to our community."
The West Galloway team is one of a number of teams of St John Scotland volunteers delivering our Patient Transport Services in five health boards across Scotland.
They are one of 244 local charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups to receive the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service this year. Representatives of the team will receive the award crystal and certificate from Lord-Lieutenant of Wigtown, Aileen Brewis, later this summer.