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Accessible Coach Holidays for the disabled

A CHARITY has unveiled a part-coach, part-ambulance vehicle known as a Jumbulance, which will take seriously ill and disabled people across Europe on holiday.

The custom-built, left-hand drive vehicle cost £350,000, which was raised through fundraising events, donations and legacies on behalf of the Jumbulance Trust.

On one side of the vehicle are 18 fixed seats, while across the aisle is space for adjustable trolley beds or wheelchairs.

The Jumbulance, one of four operated by the charity, also has a wide platform for easy access, a mobile hoist, and medical equipment including a heart start, suction units and oxygen.

Doctors, nurses and carers who travel on the bus pay their own fares, while those of the passengers are either paid for them or heavily subsidised.

Kathryn Salvesen MBE, chairman of trustees of the Jumbulance Trust, said there were around 30 trips organised between Easter and November, with further day trips taking groups or clubs to special events, such as the Cheltenham races.

She said: “We feel there is a need for people who are sick or disabled to be given the opportunity to travel abroad and to provide respite care for their families.

“We're looking at people who cannot be folded into plane seats and maybe have terminal illnesses and require specialist care. They travel with volunteer helpers who work very hard for ten days [the length of trips]. They pay their own fares, but they have a whale of a time. You're on a moral high even though you might be on a physical low. It's the patients who benefit tremendously and they come back with memories.”

Driver Brendan Kelly, who has been with the charity since it launched in 2001, said the most popular destinations for the Jumbulance were Germany, Italy and the south of France.

He said: “It's kitted out pretty much like an ambulance so if anyone needs that care on route, it's there.

“It's important that people with disabilities or mental health issues have some kind of equality of life and an equal chance as everybody else to travel.”

The launch of the new Jumbulance was celebrated with lunch at St Nicholas Church Hall, Harpenden, yesterday (Saturday). Among the guests were Hitchen and Harpenden MP, Peter Lilley.

He said: “I think it's wonderful. Sometimes I see the Jumbulance getting on the ferry when I go to my French holiday home in the summer.

“It's a wonderful lifeline for people who are otherwise trapped in their homes to have holidays and make new friends and escape from being trapped indoors.”

For more information, visit www.jumbulance.org.uk.

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