Listen again to the first of our broadcasts on Pirate 2's Health and Wellbeing Show which was aired on 16 September 2014.
The Health and Wellbeing Show with Cornwall Mobility - the leading centre for driving an independent living in the South West
Host: Edward, thank you very much for joining us back on The Health and Wellbeing Show, and I’m delighted to say that you’re going to be regular contributors to the show as well.
Edward: Yes, it’s a great joy to us that we’re going to be coming in every couple of weeks and talking about issues relating to mobility generally, disability in Cornwall and some of the things that people face. We want to raise topical issues over the next year, so we’ll be coming every couple of weeks. Just to remind listeners that I’m from Cornwall Mobility. Cornwall Mobility is a charity. It sits on the Treliske campus next to the Royal Cornwall Hospital, and we’ve been there for twenty years, and we provide a variety of solutions and services to people who face independence and mobility challenges.
Host: And you’re the chief exec of Cornwall Mobility, and we had you on the show already a few weeks ago, but today you’ve brought in your colleague Ron Spence, who is a Driving Consultant and Deputy Centre Manager. So Ron, thank you very much for joining us this week. Ron: Hi. Good evening.
Host: We’re going to be hearing from you very shortly as well, a bit more about what you do. But one of the reasons we’re talking to you this week is because you’ve got an event coming up. Is that right? Edward: Yes, that’s right. I think I just mentioned that we’ve actually been on the site for twenty years, although we do pre-date that by another seven years since we were originally formed. So we’ve been around for quite a long time. Everybody likes to think they are unique, and to some extent, we are - certainly in the driving work that Ron’s going to talk about, because there is only one place actually to go to in Cornwall for that type of stuff. But the other side of things that we do relate to independent living, which for the sake of health and wellbeing, means everything from mobility scooters and wheelchairs to walkers, walking sticks and a myriad of smaller technologies to assist people in daily living when they have some sort of physical challenge. We are a charity, and the key thing that we do that makes us different from anywhere else that you can buy this sort of kit is that we always start with an assessment. We will find out exactly what the needs of the client are, first of all. If somebody is at home and they are maybe housebound, and there is a perceived need for them to have some assistance, it might be something as simple as handrail or as complex as a powered wheelchair then we will go to their home for free and do an assessment to see exactly what their needs are. We have a team of professional staff who do that. You said that I’m the Chief Executive - that’s a very grand title. There are twenty of us. We’re a small but committed team covering these two main areas - independent living and driving that Ron’s going to talk about. So going to the event, which was the original question, on Thursday - that is the day after tomorrow, the 18th of September between 11 o'clock in the morning and 3 o’clock in the afternoon, we are having an open house event. Anybody is welcome to come. We have a variety of technology and equipment on show. There’s all the fun of the fair in the sense that I think that Holly Day may be coming around with some cakes, and there’ll be a chance to meet the staff and really have a look at us at our very best, because usually we’re all sort of jolly busy doing stuff. Showing off the whole centre is something that we don’t get the chance to do very often, so it’s a chance for anybody out there listening to come along between 11 o’clock and 3 o’clock on Thursday. There is even free food and drink, and we will be delighted to see you and show off our wares, and that is everything from having a go at trying some unusual controls and adaptations for driving cars, through to maybe having a go on a mobility scooter and seeing what they are really like; but also seeing some new technology. There is a particular one I would like to mention, if I may, which is that we’re going to be introducing a free loan scheme for a powered wheelchair for very small children aged between 2 and 5 years old, which sounds dangerous but actually, it’s called Bugzi. We’re very fortunate that we’ve got a unit that we’ll be showing off on Thursday, and this is going to be a free loan scheme for the people of Cornwall where small children will not get eligibility for NHS assistance until they are over five, and so this is for small children. It’s going to be a free loan scheme, and there’s going to be one demonstrated on the open day. So that’s a really exciting thing, and I hope it will draw people to come have a look at it.
Host: That’s great. I think that’s fantastic that you’re doing that. So Ron, you’re going to be there on the day as well.
Ron: Yes, I will. My team of driving consultants will be there as well.
Host: Fantastic. So people will be able to learn a little bit more about what you do.
Host: So what are you going to be doing on the day?
Ron: Just explaining to people really what we can do in terms of helping them to become independently mobile through driving for the first time; or to maintain their driving ability. It’s about advice, information and help on driving safer for longer. That can include just some basic hints and tips on driving. Generally for the elderly who have maybe not had any tuition for a number of years - road layouts change, traffic’s busier than it ever used to be years ago and sometimes they lose confidence. So sometimes we can just give them some advice on how to stay safer for longer. If there’s mobility issues and mobility challenges where perhaps driving is becoming difficult in terms of controlling the car, we’ve got a range of adaptations that can be fitted to most vehicles, particularly if it’s automated transmission, which actually can overcome any difficulties they’re having with the main car controls. We’ll have a range of adaptations, everything available to see and possibly try on the day.
Host: In general, is it a case of people getting referred to you? How do you consult people? How do you work with people?
Ron: People can find us through our website or they can be referred by family, friends, and doctors. We get regular referrals from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency. Sometimes we get referrals from the police. So really, anybody who is concerned about any member of their family or their driving safety, or indeed if you need help to continue to drive, we are quite open to referrals from anybody really.
Host: So what’s a normal working day for you like, Ron?
Ron: It can be quite hazardous in that sometimes we have to assess people who we’ve never seen before. We go through an assessment process, trying to risk assess whether we are going to take them out in maybe their own car, or maybe we should take them in one of our adapted cars with a dual control brakes so we can actually stay safe. But sometimes it’s just a case of chatting to people and actually finding out what their difficulties are, and then just coming up with solutions to their problems. And quite often then, it’s a case of offering some tuition in the use of adapted control. So a general day would be maybe to see two or three clients, and run an assessment process, which for most clients takes about two hours to actually do an assessment - a full assessment.
Host: OK, so you do a full assessment initially, which takes about two hours. Then what happens after that? Ron: It really depends on the individual’s needs, because what we’re looking at is what clients need and what we can offer in terms of solutions to that need. Sometimes that’s as simple as offering some refresher tuition, perhaps, maybe a series of five or six lessons. All of our driving consultants are qualified driving instructors, but they’ve all got specialist knowledge and skill in terms of assessing and particularly in medical conditions and how medical conditions may impact on driving ability and safety.
Host: Do you ever have to deal with clients and deal with them to perhaps modify their car in some way?
Ron: Yes, regularly. If we take medical conditions where somebody is losing strength or movement in any of their limbs really, and they’re finding standard driving controls difficult to use, part of the assessment is to look at the difficulties people are having and then offer solutions to that. For example, if somebody has difficulty with their left foot and can’t use the clutch pedal, an obvious solution really is to move to an automatic transmission vehicle where there is no clutch pedal. So it can be something as simple as that, and beyond that, there are lots of different adaptations that can be fitted to overcome various levels of disability, from things like a simple one-handed steering aid which can incorporate a keypad for operation of wireless secondary switch, i.e. the indicators, lights, wipers, horn. People can have pedal transfer fitted where if they can’t use their right foot to accelerate, for example, they can operate the accelerator pedal with their left foot and break with the left foot. We can actually look at solutions for transporting mobility equipment - wheelchairs, mobility scooters that either need to be hoisted or lifted by platform into the back of a van-type vehicle through to some more specialist adaptations, which can include drive a vehicle from a wheelchair. And we will have such a vehicle available on show on Thursday.
Host: Fantastic. You know this is a health and wellbeing show, and wellbeing is so important, and it’s great to hear that. If people do have disabilities, that doesn’t mean that’s the end of their independence. There are still so many possibilities, technologies out there so they can still have their independence and live just like anybody or everybody else.
Ron: Absolutely, and one of the things that I’d like to stress is that our service is not a driving test service. We’re there to assess people’s ability and to offer a solution for any problems that they are encountering with driving. So people generally turn up a little bit afraid that we might be taking their driving entitlement away. In fact, we want to do the exact opposite. If it’s at all possible to keep people driving safely, then we can find a solution.
Host: Do you ever find that people are a bit reluctant to work with you? Ron: Initially, yes. As I say, they’re afraid that we are actually a part of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency and therefore have the authority to take their driving entitlement away. That’s not actually true. We are predominantly there to offer advice, information, guidance on how they can continue to drive. Once they have come in and sort of spoken to us about the process, then people are less reluctant to come and have an assessment and carry through the whole process.
Host: Well, if anyone listening has any questions then they should come along on Thursday and you’ll be there to answer any.
Ron: Absolutely. The whole team will be there, but also, we’ll have a team of technicians from our workshop who can explain how our adaptations can be fitted, how the adaptations don’t necessarily restrict other drivers driving the same vehicle. People think if there are modified controls fitted to a vehicle, drivers without any physical disabilities can’t drive it, but that’s not true. What we tend to fit overrides the main driving controls, never replaces them normally. So it’s about seeing how the car can be adapted for multi-purpose and for multiple drivers rather than just a single-use driver.
Host: So Edward, we’ll come back to you now. So Thursday is the big day for the open day. Could you just remind our listeners where you are based and the times?
Edward: Yes, indeed. I think people sometimes refer to us as one of the best kept secrets in Cornwall, and the excellent work that Ron and his team and the workshops do is usually through referral. The purpose of having the open day is actually launch our new website, which is cornwallmobility.co.uk which will be going live on Thursday. And the open day itself will be held at our premises. We’re located right next to the Royal Cornwall Hospital on the Treliske site. As you come onto the site from the roundabout, the hospital is on your right hand side, we are straight ahead of you at North Buildings. We have limited car parking spaces. We have a fair number of disabled spaces and certainly carers can drop off somebody, but there may be a need to go to the hospital parking. But the thing to do first is to come to us, and then go from there if you are a carer or someone with a disability. It’s between 11 and 3, as I say. There will be a lot of things to see. There will be food and drink, and also in this technological age, if you were to like our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter, then you’ll get more news about it and see more stuff about it there.
Host: Brilliant. And people can just find you on social media by searching Cornwall Mobility?
Edward: Yeah, Cornwall Mobility on Facebook and Twitter - you’ll find us straight away.
Host: Well, as you already mentioned, Holly Day should be there on Thursday popping in on the event. I hope you have a great event, and we look forward to having you back on the show in two weeks’ time.
Edward: That’s great. Thanks everybody for listening.