Volunteer 'Rocket Ron' marks 30 years of helping patients

Volunteer marks 30 years of helping patients

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A 75-year-old who has helped thousands of patients get to hospital is celebrating 30 years volunteering for East Midlands Ambulance Service.

Ron Haslam, a former taxi driver from Little Eaton known as 'Rocket Ron', has given much of his spare time to our Volunteer Car Service since it began in September 1988.

Over the last three decades Ron has driven patients hundreds of thousands of miles across the country to get to a wide range of hospital appointments including mental health support, day care centres for dementia, physiotherapy, kidney dialysis, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Ron is known throughout the service as 'Rocket Ron' - after the famous motorbike rider. 

Despite recently becoming a great-grandfather, Ron has no plans to give up volunteering and would recommend the role to anyone looking to volunteer.

He said: “I just love it – they’ll have to stop me if they want me to give up.

“I get greater job satisfaction from being a volunteer car driver than I did in any other job that I’ve done. When I look back, I wish I had joined the service sooner.

“Obviously you have to be a caring person, but you also need to be a good listener, and able to get people talking. It helps them to relax, especially if they are worrying about their appointment.” 

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Ron first started supporting the NHS in the 1980s as part of a taxi service for nurses performing home visits, and he was keen join the Voluntary Car Service when it was launched.

He said: “It was the ‘feel good factor’ that first attracted me, and I already knew most of the crews on patient transport so it was lovely to be volunteering alongside them.

“Many of the patients we pick up are very poorly and can feel quite vulnerable, and they are relying on you to look after them.

“When you drop them off at home or at the hospital clinic and they smile and say ‘thank you’, that makes everything worth it.”

As well as transporting patients who live in his local community, Ron volunteers to take patients on longer journeys for specialist appointments in London and Cambridge.

Ron explained that not much has changed over the last 30 years as patients still need help and support to get to hospital.

“In the early days I made a fire or two for patients when I had taken them home and their house was cold.

“We’ve always been kept busy as volunteers which is lovely, and I often get to pick up the same patients on a regular basis so I get to know them.

“I’ve been doing the role so long now that a lady got in my car the other day and said ‘you used to take my mum to hospital’!”

Many of the patients going for regular treatment are going through difficult time in their lives due to issues with their health.  Ron explained he quickly becomes a friend to many of his patients, and is always pleased when they make a full recovery.

He added: “It is such a privilege to get to know the patients and to be a small part of the process that has led to their recovery.

“I took one man in to hospital on several occasions when he was having cancer treatment, and sadly he was told he only had 12 months to live. But he had an operation, recovered well and he is still alive today – and I was able to be a small part of that.”

When Ron isn’t transporting our patients, he spends time with his wife and his four grandchildren.  

Joy Weldin, General Manager for Patient Transport Services, said that is an pleasure to have Ron volunteering for our service.

She said: “Ron is an incredibly dedicated member of our Patient Transport Service and he is adored by all our patients and ambulance crews.

“Ron’s care and kindness has undoubtedly made difficult journeys to and from hospital appointments just that little bit better.

“We’re very lucky to have him and I would like to say a huge thank you to him for volunteering for us for 30 years.”

Volunteers receive full training, uniform and equipment, mileage for using their own car and can work the hours that suit them.

Could you be a volunteer in your community? For more information please call: 0300 300 34 34 or email pts.vcs@emas.nhs.uk

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