A CHARITY which acts as a lifeline for cancer-sufferers struggling to reach hospital for treatment has issued an urgent appeal for volunteer drivers.

The Home Support Group Trust is well-established, having offered a service to cancer patients in the Frinton, Walton and Kirby areas since 1980.

In more recent years, it has evolved into a transport service for those in need, ferrying patients to and from chemotherapy and radiotherapy appointments.

Mike Beardmore, the charity’s chairman, said the charity is much more than a free taxi service.

He said: “Divers will go in with patients, sit with them while waiting.

“For cancer patients, especially the first time round, going for treatment can be a scary experience.

“People like a reassuring hand.”

The charity currently has five volunteer drivers, but the need for the service they offer is growing.

Between December 5 and January 7, the drivers conducted 24 hospital runs for treatment.

Patients are typically taken to Colchester Hospital.

Drivers act as a line of support to patients throughout treatment.

One letter from a grateful client to driver Julie Heller said: “You were such good and supportive company and made what was a very stressful and difficult day for me much easier.

“The work that you and the charity are providing is invaluable to people like myself.

“I would like to express my heartfelt thanks and appreciation.”

Mike added: “It can mean a terrific amount to people. Just having that contact with someone can be so important. Cancer is a tough thing to deal with.

“The mere thought of it is enough to scare you - it is important to offer moral support by going into sessions with people who are going through this.”

Volunteer drivers can fit the drives around their lives.

Mike said: “Even if it is just one lift a month, everything helps.

“You can arrange when would be best to help out.”

Monica Norris, advanced practitioner at Colchester Hospital's radiotherapy department, said she: "Home Support Group Trust play an invaluable role in assisting our patients who are undergoing daily, and in some cases, complex and demanding treatment.

"Many have mentioned to me they would not have been able to get through it all without this wonderful help.

"It is often difficult for patients to get to the hospital each day with the added pressures of normal family life. "The logistics of parking and getting to the department alone can add to the stress at what is already a difficult time."

She added: "Patients truly value the role of this organisation who step in when things are at their toughest with a friendly smile and encouraging words and take a lot of the pressure away.

"I encourage anyone who is thinking about becoming a volunteer to come forward. It is such a worthwhile thing to do and you get to meet and work with the most wonderful people."

Anyone interested in supporting the charity by becoming a driver or by donating can contact organiser Julie on 01255 671239.