Lions’ help for patient transport

A Daft as a Brush ambulance with Brian Burnie (in the driving seat) with Lion President Geoff Bushell and fellow Lions.
A Daft as a Brush ambulance with Brian Burnie (in the driving seat) with Lion President Geoff Bushell and fellow Lions.

morpeth lions club

At its May meeting, Morpeth Lions Club welcomed Brian Burnie from Daft as a Brush Cancer Patient Care.

Daft as a Brush offers staffed custom-made transport for out-patients to and from the Freeman Hospital while they undergo chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

The original trust was set up by Brian in 1989 to formalise his philanthropic work. In May 2010 he decided to specialise in the transport of cancer patients.

Brian described his early life in Heaton and his exploits as an errand boy for the local grocery store. In the 1940s and 50s Heaton was a place where you shared what you had. He remembered his mother describing a neighbour who always smiled and helped people as ‘daft as a brush’. These lessons stayed with him and Brian used this phrase in naming the charity.

Four people inspired him – Martin Luther King, Daisy Clark, who established the Charlie Bear for Cancer Care charity, Joan Pringle, Morpeth Lion Simon’s late mother, who raised money to help cancer patients get to hospital, and William Leech, who gave away millions of pounds to charity.

Brian said that the real work is done by around 200 volunteers. There is a fleet of 13 ambulances, which are Nissan seven-seat people carriers, but some larger vehicles will arrive shortly, making a total of 16.

Each ambulance is adopted by a primary school. They are painted in eye-catching livery featuring the Mr and Mrs Daft as a Brush characters. An ambulance has a crew of two, a driver and companion. They will take two patients at a time, with relatives when required. The philosophy is that the patient is the most important person.

The patients are delivered at the appointment time and the ambulance will either wait at the hospital or return after treatment. This avoids lengthy waits for patients. Daft as a Brush rings patients before each visit to confirm times. The volunteers know hospital layouts and can take patients to the correct areas.

All transport patients are referred by the hospital. The area covered stretches from Whitehaven and the Scottish Border, but mostly is Northumberland, Durham and Tyne and Wear. This year it is expected to undertake 10,000 journeys, rising to 15,000 next year.

The charity started in premises in the centre of Newcastle, but is now based at Gosforth. Running costs are around £250,000 a year.

Daft as a Brush is setting up a National Walk, the River Tyne Trail. It will run for 130 miles from the sources of the river to the mouth at North and South Shields. Obelisks are being placed at the source to mark the start of the walk, which can be covered in around 12 to 13 days.

Brian’s ambition is for Daft as a Brush to spread all over Britain and even further afield.

Several Lions knew of the great work undertaken by Daft as a Brush. Lion President Geoff Bushell thanked Brian Burnie for his talk and presented a cheque for £250 from the Lions.