More drivers are needed for Ledbury’s Ring & Ride service, or else the service will have to refuse some requests, many of which are linked to hospital appointments for the elderly.

Since 1990, Community Action Ledbury’s volunteer car service, has been helping the elderly, disabled and other vulnerable people get to hospital and doctor’s appointments and make other essential journeys.

But CAL’s General Manager, Tim Barnes said: “Our volunteers have been brilliant in taking on more drives; however, we are now getting to stage where we will have to start turning people down if we are unable to find more drivers.”

Over the last two years demand for the service has increased by 60 per cent, “putting a strain on the existing team.”.

Mr Barnes said: "It terms of people needing to get to health care, the service is really big deal. Some people really struggle to get to appointments."

The service has grown steadily over the years and now has over 350 users from across Ledbury and the surrounding villages of Much-Marcle, Colwall, Cradley, Bosbury and Tarrington.

According to Mr Barnes, The 60 per cent rise in demands, over the past two years, is down to an ageing population, less support from social services due to cuts and the fact that Ledbury Ring & Ride "has done a good job raising its profile, so people really know about us."

Mr Barnes said: “The team of volunteer drivers makes over 320 journeys a month, ranging from taking a 98-year old lady across Ledbury to the hairdressers, to getting patients to appointments at Hereford, Worcester and Birmingham hospitals, and helping a pensioner suffering from dementia stock up at the supermarket.

"The service is highly regarded by its users: in a recent survey 95 per cent of them rated its performance as very good or excellent.”

Some volunteers offer regular hours, while others are more flexible.

Mr Barnes said: "Others are as and when, when they are available".

The existing volunteers themselves are almost all retired and come from all walks of life, including former GPs, hairdressers, HGV drivers, army officers, parish vicars and company directors. What they all have in common is a desire to give something back to the community and help others.

“It is incredibly rewarding” said volunteer driver Tania Maguire, a practicing therapist.

She added: "Everyone is so friendly and appreciative of what we do. It just brightens up my day”.

Hereford County Council and Ledbury Town Council provide financial support, but the service is delivered by over 40 volunteer drivers who are using their own cars, and more are needed to help meet the rising demand.

Further details: 01531 635339.