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West Lochaber Hospital Transport Project (WLHTP) took delivery of a Citroen Berlingo this week to get the motor running on this exciting pilot project.
The scheme is funded by the Aspiring Communities Fund (ACF) with support from the European Social Fund (ESF) and is the first of its kind in Scotland.
Care Lochaber runs the Lochaber community transport scheme and is the lead partner in this project.
Care Lochaber charity manager Lara Van Der Peer told us: ‘I am delighted to see this project finally getting off the ground.
‘Getting to and from hospital appointments is a huge issue for people in West Lochaber. By offering this community-led service we will be providing an affordable and simple, door-to-door transport option that will make a positive difference to many lives.’
With many residents in the area miles away from the nearest train station public transport just is not an option, particularly if appointments are as far away as Glasgow or Inverness.
WLHTP is hoping it can provide the answer for residents in Ardgour, Morvern, Moidart, West Ardnamurchan and Sunart.
The service is open to everyone, although under-16s must be accompanied by an adult. Booking the service is easy to do with just a phonecall, email or Facebook message to the service once you have your appointment time and date.
Due to having just one vehicle, the service will operate on a first come, first served basis, but there is scope to share the journey for more than one patient.
There is a small charge for the service but for most users this can be claimed back as travel expenses from NHS Highland.
The project is supported by Scottish Ambulance Service which has been involved in training volunteers and is hopeful that if successful here there may be scope for rolling out the scheme to a wider area to relieve the burden on the ambulance service in patient transport too.
Loch Shiel Garage is looking after the vehicle, which will be based in Acharacle and coordinated by project officer Jane Gaze.
Patients will be collected and returned to their home address. The project also offers volunteering opportunities for anyone who has a few hours to spare and enjoys driving and meeting people.
All volunteers are fully trained in first aid and police checked.
Ms Van Der Peer added: ‘We already have 10 volunteers signed up but are looking for more. It’s a great way to support the project and get involved in the local community.’