Shaftesbury Hospital League Of Friends Crowdsource Cash For Electric Vehicles

Shaftesbury’s Hospital League of Friends helpers have devised an innovative way of raising funds for two new electric vehicles. The volunteers want locals to purchase the transport piece-by-piece.

Alfred heard about the plan, ahead of the appeal’s official launch on 15th December.

The Westminster Memorial Hospital League of Friends volunteers and the staff at Shaftesbury’s Hospital provide a great example of how community groups and public bodies can partner to achieve real community benefits. “Our aim is to make a significant difference to the reach and scale of the services available to our community, by raising funds for medical equipment, refurbishment and infrastructure projects which are beyond the affordability of the NHS,” said Justine Elmendorff, the League’s trustee, with responsibility for fundraising.

Helen Dawes (left) and Justine Elmendorff

“Without the League of Friends, it would be really difficult to develop services and move forward. They do support us in such an important way,” added Matron, Helen Lawes, as she offered her backing to the campaign to buy the two new vehicles.

Whilst some people might argue that vital equipment should be funded directly by the NHS, Helen says the reality is that something would then have to be sacrificed. “If the League of Friends didn’t fund it, there would have to be choices about how we managed home visits and bringing patients in very quickly. It’s a very complex question. I think there would need to be a choice about how money was spent and ultimately that would impact on patient care in some way.”

The patient transport vehicles enable people to maintain their independence and dignity by remaining in their own homes when recovering from hospital stays. Before discharge, patients are taken home, often in a wheelchair, to assess their care needs and their ability to manage daily living. At this time, the patient can try adaptations to their home environment to ensure they can safely return home when discharged.

The healthcare team use the vehicles to visit discharged patients who require ongoing support to continue their recovery. The transport is used to collect patients from home and bring them into hospital, freeing up the Ambulance Service for more serious callouts. The vehicles are also used to unite loved ones without their own transport in the patient’s final moments of life, so they can say goodbye.

With so many uses, it is easy to see how the League’s two current diesel-powered vehicles can quickly clock up the miles. “Our area can run down to Sturminster Newton, Ashmore, Gillingham and the Wiltshire border. If somebody is in Salisbury Hospital, they might need to be moved to us. It is used in the locality of North Dorset but not necessarily immediately in our town or district,” said Helen.

She says that the current vehicles increased hospital efficiency when they were introduced. Helen needs the new replacement vehicles because, without the wheelchair-friendly transport, a return to the previous working practices would be a backward step.

“If you were a therapist and you wanted to take somebody on a home visit, to assess whether they were ready for discharge, you would have ordered the patient transport ambulance. The occupational therapy assistant would have accompanied the patient in the ambulance and the therapist would follow behind in his or her own car. The patient transport would have gone on somewhere else and the staff member and patient would have to wait in the house until the patient transport could return. If somebody had been in hospital for a few weeks, they might be going back to a cold house to wait several hours,” said Helen.

Westminster Memorial Hospital

That doubling up of vehicle journeys was not environmentally friendly, either. Justine says that the NHS provider, Dorset Healthcare, has acknowledged this fundraising work and will provide green infrastructure for the two new vehicles. “They have agreed to provide us with electric charging points. We could not be doing this without the support from Dorset Healthcare,” said Justine.

Time is of the essence because the current diesel models are reaching the end of their lives and, as happens with older vehicles, maintenance costs are starting to creep up. The basic vehicles cost around £25,000 each, but necessary customisation adds to the costs. “It’s £13,000 for the adaptation to make them wheelchair compatible. Then you have another £8,000 for the electric engine and small items like £1,300 for the winch to get the wheelchairs in and out of the vehicle,” said Justine.

The official appeal will be launched at the Shaftesbury Chamber of Commerce Christmas Market on Sunday 15th December. “Whilst we need to raise £82,614, we haven’t even launched the campaign and we’ve been given £19,307. We hope to raise the remaining £63,307 in 2020,” said Justine, who added that she is excited that the kind donors will help the appeal hit the ground running.

She hopes to reach the full target by the start of September 2020 by following a creative cash appeal. Residents and businesses will be able put their names to a specific part of each vehicle. “We would like to make the fundraising more fun and personalised,” said Justine.

She has created suggested ‘prices’ for each vehicle part. “For £75, you can buy a central mirror. Shaftesbury Community Choir will sponsor the music system. Our Chairman, Julian Prichard, gave a Scottish dancing lesson at the Grosvenor Arms Hotel and raised £150 for a right headlight. We would like to encourage people to be creative in their fundraising. Forms listing what’s available will be distributed throughout the town over the next couple of weeks,” she said.

Justine says that private individuals, as well as businesses, can sponsor an item. John and Marigold Clevely have bought a front passenger side wheel and the tyre to go on it.

The League of Friends team are driven by the prospect of becoming pioneers with this appeal that could put Shaftesbury on the map. “We hope very much to be the first hospital in England to have two fully electric vehicles,” said Justine.

Residents will be encouraged to pop any spare change into collection boxes dotted around the town when the appeal campaign is launched at the Christmas Market. You’ll be able to see what you will be helping to purchase at the event.

“The company who are doing the conversion have kindly agreed to give up a Sunday and bring one of their vehicles down, so that people can inspect it. We hope to have the winch installed so, in exchange for a bit of money, we can winch people in and out of it. We’ll also encourage people who haven’t finished their Christmas shopping to buy vehicle parts,” said Justine.

If you want to give money before the event, you can also call into the hospital reception, or you can contact Justine. Her number is 07880 556602 and her email is