Publish date: 28 July 2023

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust pay tribute to the Berwick Cancer Cars volunteer team

Berwick Cancer Cars - publicity photo.jpg

On Thursday 20th July, 2023, The Berwick and District Cancer Support Group were delighted to welcome Sir James Mackey, Chief Executive of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, who, along with his NHS Trust colleagues, travelled up to Berwick-upon-Tweed to say a special “thank you” to the charity volunteers by hosting a lunch buffet reception at Pier Red, Castlegate.

Chair of Trustees, Cllr Paul Jackson, introduced Sir James who paid tribute to Berwick Cancer Cars' team of volunteers, recognising their 31 years of service in helping those with cancer in the Berwick and District community, and for the integral and vital role played by the charity since its formation in 1992, in supporting the NHS. Committee Chair, Andrew Smith, then thanked Sir James and his Trust colleagues before everyone retired for official group photos at The Berwick and District Cancer Support Group building on Tweed Street.

Sir James Mackey, CEO at Northumbria Healthcare, said: “The support that volunteers from The Berwick and District Cancer Support Group give to cancer patients is very much appreciated. We all know someone who has had cancer and how it can affect people’s lives. The charity’s crucial service makes such a difference to around 50 patients a month. It will also be a relief for the loved ones of those with cancer knowing that this transport is available. These patients will be feeling very vulnerable and I am sure are very grateful for this support. It was really lovely to be able to host the lunch to show appreciation to all the drivers and other volunteers. They are an excellent example of the power and importance of community partnerships.”

Also in attendance at this special, landmark occasion were hospital staff from Berwick Infirmary’s oncology department, with whom The Berwick and District Cancer Support Group works closely, as they do with many other hospitals in the North of England, the Scottish Borders and beyond, to help ensure its client's transport needs run smoothly. A very welcome guest at the event was John Robertson, Mayor of Berwick, a great ambassador for the charity having chosen The Berwick and District Cancer Support Group as his nominated charity during his tenure as Town Mayor.

The Berwick and District Cancer Support Group free hospital transport service covers an approx. 20 miles radius of Berwick, including the towns and villages and surrounding areas of Wooler, Norham, Belford, Lowick and Holy Island. The service is available for those with an existing cancer diagnosis who need assistance to reach their cancer related hospital appointments. A number of Berwick Cancer Cars clients live in rural towns and villages and have limited access to public transport. Their dedicated volunteer team assist, on average, 50 individual clients every month, many of whom are required to attend multiple appointments for their treatments, sometimes up to five days each week.

The Berwick Cancer Cars team is comprised entirely of volunteers, currently 56 in number, many of whom have been touched by cancer in some way and is made up of trustees, committee members, client coordinators and drivers. Entirely self-funded, the charity relies on donations and fundraising from the local community and its supporters further afield.

Chair of volunteers Andrew Smith said of the occasion “This is wonderful recognition for our charity. We were initially approached by Sheila Budzynski, now a former colleague of Northumbria Healthcare, with a view to hosting an event for our volunteers in Newcastle, before the pandemic. Understandably things had to be postponed. After a number of meetings with the current Northumbria Healthcare team, a date was set for an event to be hosted here in Berwick, close to our new home so that we could give the Trust a tour of our building, and to introduce them to our six cars and to our amazing volunteer team. Our thanks to Sir James and his fellow NHS Trust colleagues, both past and present, for their roles in making the event possible and for making the journey to Berwick-upon-Tweed to meet us. Thanks also to the management and staff at Pier Red (“our new neighbours”) for looking after us all so well. To be recognised in this way is a momentous occasion, as a charity we feel very proud of what we have achieved over the last three decades and look forward to an exciting future as we continue to develop and grow, as we continue our dedicated service to those touched by cancer in the Berwick and District community.”