Portishead Porters celebrates 25 years of taking patients to hospital
PUBLISHED: 07:00 24 March 2018 | UPDATED: 13:37 26 March 2018
A volunteer group which has provided people across North Somerset with transport to and from hospital has celebrated its silver jubilee.
Portishead Porters has ferried patients to Harbourside Family Practice, in Haven View, and beyond over the past 25 years, making more than 40,000 journeys.
The car share group was set up in 1993 for patients of Portishead Health Centre, in Victoria Square, who needed to get to appointments but had no means of transportation.
Changes in the area, such as the town’s expansion and demand not meeting supply of public transport, led to the Porters’ service becoming more sought after.
The group now operates in a 15-mile area around Bristol, with more than 40 drivers on its books.
The group’s founder, Ray Shields, said: “The closure of Ham Green Hospital in the early 1990s meant people were obliged to travel further to hospitals, such as Southmead and Frenchay.
“Public transport links to these hospitals has always been very difficult as they generally require patients having to travel into Bristol, which is a tricky task.
“Ambulance transport can turn an outpatient’s appointment into a whole day excursion and recent changes have limited the use of such facilities even further.”
Increases in fuel costs together with parking problems at most of the hospitals has also encouraged more people to use the Porters.
In 2003, the group was awarded an inscribed certificate from the High Sheriff of Somerset in recognition of the services carried out by members.
Some drivers double up as co-ordinators, liaising with health centres and patients to deal with requests and appointments.
The Porters held a party to celebrate their 25th year of operations, and Ray said the evening was a success.
Speaking to the Times, he said: “It was a special night.
“Thanks must be given to the drivers and co-ordinators, whose loyalty and hours of volunteering have made the system run smoothly.
“I would also like to thank the management and staff at the two health centres in Portishead for their good relations and co-operation with us, which has made our jobs much easier.
“We shall carry on for as long as we are needed, so who knows, we might be around for another 25 years.”