VOLUNTEERS are helping to relieve pressure on the city's hospital by driving patients back to their homes.

Members of the British Red Cross Assisted Discharge Service even use their own vehicles to take patients home from Worcestershire Royal Hospital.

The team can take three people out of the hospital every day, which helps cut waiting times for other patients who need a bed.

The new scheme started on Tuesday, January 2, and will run until the end of March.

The volunteers settle patients back into their homes, undertake safety checks of properties, collect medicine, prepare meals, go shopping and provide companionship.

They are also able to signpost people to other agencies and relevant support.

Another effect of the service is that it helps some to regain their confidence and independence through returning home and meeting up with friends and neighbours.

Patients also received a follow-up call or visit 24 hours after they have been discharged from the hospital.

A spokesman for Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust previously said: "Throughout Christmas and the New Year period we have seen - and continue to see - very high levels of demand.

"Additional winter schemes – including the opening of Worcestershire Step Down Unit and the launch of the British Red Cross Assisted Discharge Service – began [last] week with the aim of further helping to improve patient flow through our hospitals.

"We have seen a year-on-year increase in people coming through our emergency departments and with higher than expected numbers of seriously ill patients arriving by ambulance every day throughout the holiday period we have experienced periods of considerable pressure.

"We have a countywide winter plan which has been drawn up with our local NHS partners and the county council and that is helping us to care for record numbers of patients in need of urgent medical attention."

The discharge service is available from Monday to Friday 10am to 6pm.