A four-figure grant from the North East’s biggest building society is helping to keep a team of volunteer drivers with a specialist Northumberland healthcare charity on the road during the coronavirus crisis.

Tynedale Hospice At Home provides professional needs-led end of life nursing care in the patient’s home for people living across Tynedale, Ponteland and West Northumberland, as well as pre and post bereavement services for patients and their families and a hospital transport service for those with a life-limiting diagnosis.

Newcastle Building Society has given the charity a £3,000 grant through its new Hexham branch to help cover the running costs of the transport service, which is continuing to operate as an essential service during the outbreak after additional measures were put in place to safeguard both patients’ and drivers’ health.

The free transport service, which is available to anyone living within an area of around 800 square miles, involves a 29-strong team of volunteer drivers chauffeuring patients to and from any of a dozen different treatment centres across the North East for radiotherapy and chemotherapy sessions.

Charlotte Pearson, head of income generation at Tynedale Hospice At Home, says: “Even though the pandemic has stopped most things in their tracks, it hasn’t stopped the need for treatment for some of the patients that we support, so we’re continuing to provide transportation for those that need it.

“We’ve put extra measures in place to keep both passengers and drivers safe, and because quite a few of our volunteers are older retired people who need to be keeping themselves safe at the moment, we’re drafting other people in from different parts of the organisation to ensure we’re keeping the show on the road.

“Our clients really rely on us to help them during some very challenging times, and in turn we rely on supporters like Newcastle Building Society and many other fundraisers to help us meet the substantial costs of providing our essential services.

“In ordinary times, we’re always keen to hear from new people who want to become part of our team of drivers and hope we’ll be able to keep bringing on new recruits once life gets back to normal.”

The funding has been provided by the Newcastle Building Society Community Fund at the Community Foundation, which was set up to offer grants to charities and community groups located in or around the communities served by the Society’s branch network, and put forward for support by its customers.

Hannah Samuel, manager at Newcastle Building Society’s Beaumont Street branch in Hexham, adds: “Tynedale Hospice At Home makes a massive different to the quality of life enjoyed by dozens of people around our area and their families every year, and many of our customers have had personal experience of the service in one way or another.

“Playing an active role in our communities is a core part of who we are and we’re very proud to be supporting such an important local organisation, especially when the current situation is making the challenges that Hospice clients are facing that much harder.”

Founded in 1993, Tynedale Hospice at Home has provided nursing care to over 100 patients and given bereavement support to over 200  adults and  children in the last year alone.

Applicants all receive background checks before being taken on as volunteer drivers and are given special training on the particular needs of the clients for whom they’ll be driving before setting out on their first journeys.

The services provided by Tynedale Hospice At Home cost around £1.2m to run every year, with the great majority being raised through grants, fundraising activities and donations.

Since its launch in 2016, Newcastle Building Society’s Community Fund has contributed over £1.8m in grants and partnerships with the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and the Princes Trust. The grants are so far estimated to have had a positive impact on more than 151,000 people.