Barry Clift is a Senior Occupational Therapist at Bridgewater Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s Drive Ability North West service.
The service supports people with medical conditions, disabilities, and those affected by old age, to drive safely and maintain or regain their independence as drivers or passengers.
Barry explains the difference that this can make to people’s lives.
“In the twenty years I’ve worked at Drive Ability North West I’ve helped lots of people to drive safely. We’ve just celebrated our 30-year anniversary, which has made me reflect on what it is we really do – and it goes beyond the metal, wheels and engine that make up a car.
“For so many of us, being able drive is really important for our wellbeing – meeting friends, going shopping, working, just carrying out our day to day lives.
“People come to us for different reasons. For most people though, whilst they want to keep their independence, they also want to make sure they’re safe on the road. That’s where we come in.
“We give driving support, advice and assessments, all based around the person we see. That’s really important – no one person is the same and we want to give people the best assessments and advice for who they are.
“For an individual, their family, friends, even a medic who has referred someone to us, we offer an independent view on whether someone needs more support to drive, or if they’re safe to continue driving.
“Most people think that we provide driving tests, because that’s their previous experience – and that’s nerve wracking. When we give assessments and advice, it’s not a driving test. We help them relax and just drive as they ordinarily would.
“There are lots of things we can do to help people drive, like using vehicle adaptations. I recently saw a young man who’d had a significant injury to his hand, and he didn’t think he’d be able to drive, but when he realised he could he was quite tearful.
“At the end of the day, we’re helping people to keep safe and do the things that they want to do – not what we think they should be doing and that’s important, fulfilling and rewarding.”
Drive Ability North West is a completely free NHS service that anyone can make a referral to. The service also gives advice on other mobility options such as mobility scooters and car seats and harnesses for children with disabilities or challenging behaviour.