A CHARITY which has provided more than 4,000 wheelchairs to people in need could reduce its hours unless volunteers come forward.

The Wheelchair Loan Service was set up ten years ago by two volunteers and used to run from Essex County Hospital in Colchester.

As the hospital was wound down before closure, the service moved and is now running from a base at Clacton Hospital.

The service loans wheelchairs temporarily to people who need them and they can be borrowed for up to three months.

Bart Walsh, a spokesperson for the group, said the service continues to be popular but more volunteers are needed.

He said: “Unfortunately when Essex County Hospital closed down last year we were forced to leave our base in Colchester and were unable to obtain suitable accommodation which we could afford in the town.

“As a result we had an enforced relocation to Clacton which meant we lost three of our volunteers.”

A shortage of volunteers means the service is only available from Monday to Wednesday, and hours could be cut even further.

Bart said: “Ten years ago two of us started up a Wheelchair Loan Service with just five wheelchairs funded by a small grant from the Colchester Catalyst Charity and a few others donated by the Essex Rivers Hospital Trust Wheelchair Service.

“We now have a varied collection of more than 100 lightweight, folding wheelchairs on free loan for up to three months.”

At any one time they may have 80 wheelchairs out on loan, although there are some occasions when volunteers are forced to create a waiting list.

Mr Walsh said: “Many people are under the misunderstanding wheelchairs are provided by the NHS, but in reality in order to qualify for assistance with a wheelchair a patient has to have a long-term condition needing permanent use of the chair.

“The Short Loan Group helps out where patients do not qualify for a wheelchair from the NHS.

“Unlike the official wheelchair services people do not need to be referred to us and we operate drop-in service.”

Mr Walsh would like to hear from anyone who could assist for two hours.

To find out more call 01255 201763.