The specialist North East Drive Mobility service helps people across the North of England to keep or regain their independence as drivers and passengers, and the team recently won two national DriveMobility Awards!
They are also encouraging people to come forward for assessments and support that they might have missed out on during the pandemic. To encourage others, Sam, 58 from Morpeth, who has Multiple Sclerosis, is sharing how assessment and support from the Drive Mobility team helped her to keep driving and stay independent.
North East Drive Mobility supports people across the North of England who have a medical condition or disability which may affect their ability to drive or use a vehicle as a passenger. This includes specialist driving assessments and tuition, vehicle adaptations, and powered wheelchair assessments.
The service is run by Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, as well as being joint funded by the Department for Transport and accredited by Driving Mobility. It operates from centres in Newcastle upon Tyne, Stockton on Tees, and Carlisle, where they have recently expanded into new larger premises.
Thanks to the incredible dedication of our staff, people can once again get an assessment from us in a timely manner, helping them to keep or regain their independence to travel.Paula GeorgeTransport Hub Lead and Driving Adviser
Paula George, Transport Hub Lead and Driving Adviser, explains: “Unfortunately, at one point, after we had to pause face-to-face assessments due to lockdowns, people were having to wait for over a year for an appointment with us.
“But thanks to the incredible dedication of our staff, we’ve been able to completely clear that backlog. People can once again get an assessment from us in a timely manner, helping them to keep or regain their independence to travel.
“We’ve also moved in to new, more spacious premises in Carlisle, which has improved the service we can offer to people in Cumbria.”
Paula was recently recognised at the national Driving Mobility annual general meeting with an award for Greatest Individual Contribution to Driving Mobility.
The service also won the Outstanding Teamwork Award, in recognition of their contribution towards a training programme to develop a similar service in Qatar, and were runners-up for the award for Greatest Contribution to the Future of Driving Mobility, thanks to the recent expansion of the services the team offers.
North East Drive Mobility sees a range of people, from learner drivers, people considering returning to driving following a change in their health, and those who are unsure about whether to retire from driving.
The people here are really friendly, very understanding, and supportive…I felt great after, because I was able to keep my license, keep driving, and have my independence and confidence.Sam
Sam, 58 from Morpeth, has Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Multiple sclerosis is a lifelong condition that can affect the brain and spinal cord, causing a wide range of symptoms, including problems with vision, arm or leg movement, sensation, or balance.
In 2022, Sam noticed she was finding it harder to drive, and her physiotherapist referred her to the Drive Mobility service.
“It was quite scary at the time; I was thinking ‘ah no, this means I’m going to have my license taken away.’ But then I thought, ‘I need to be safe.’
“I was petrified, I have to tell you! I was fearing the worst. But I was really surprised. The people here are really friendly, very understanding, and supportive. I genuinely felt that they wanted to help me. They weren’t just going to say ‘oh, you’ve got to have your license taken away.’
“I had an assessment and lessons here, which were really good. The instructor was fabulous, very patient.
“I felt great after, because I was able to keep my license, keep driving, and have my independence and confidence.”
Watch Sam talk about her experience, and see what an assessment at NEDM looks like:
The service usually offers a clinical assessment, followed by an assessment in a car – first on the Drive Mobility centre’s closed track and then, if appropriate, heading out onto the public roads nearby.
Some of the vehicle adaptations they can help people with include hand controls, left foot accelerators, steering aids, and remote controls. There are also high-tech adapted vehicles which enable someone to ‘drive-from-wheelchair’. Their fleet of adapted vehicles help the team to find a solution which allows someone to drive wherever possible.
When the team must recommend that the person being assessed should not drive, their Mobility Hubs Advice Service can help, by providing information on accessing public and community transport services, and helping to improve people’s confidence to travel.
Doctors, consultants and other health professionals can also refer their patients via these contact details.
Assessments are funded by the NHS, so there is no fee to pay.