A VITAL service taking Inverclyde cancer patients to and from treatment has been fuelled by a grant of more than £20,000.

Volunteers at Ardgowan Hospice are celebrating the substantial award from Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT).

The charity's patient transport service helps people get to and from hospital for treatment - sometimes for weeks on end.

SPT has stepped in with a cheque for £22,500 in support of the hospice and its small army of 34 volunteers, who continue to support those in need.

The funding will be used to cover vehicle running costs and drivers' expenses.

Inverclyde councillor, David Wilson, who is also chair of the SPT operations committee, said: "I am delighted that SPT has agreed to fund this project, which brings such tremendous benefits to the people of Inverclyde. "The Ardgowan Hospice patient transport scheme is a critical lifeline for patients undergoing cancer care. "Without its volunteers, many patients would not be able to make the journey from Inverclyde to Glasgow under, what can often be, very difficult and trying circumstances."

The service is responsible for some 3,000 journeys covering in excess of 70,000 miles each year.

Volunteers use their own vehicles to pick up patients from their front door, take them for treatment and wait to take them back home again.

Service users can spend up to six weeks going to hospital on a daily basis for radiotherapy, for example.

Joan McDade, transport co-ordinator, said: "If you imagine that on public transport, people simply wouldn't be able to afford that.

"Patients have said to us they would be unable to go for treatment if they didn't have this service."

The grant now takes the SPT's contribution to the hospice to over £118,000 since 2011.

Elinor Dunn is one of the longest-serving drivers with nearly 19 years under her belt.

She said: "We know the patients appreciate it so much. "It saves them the inconvenience of public transport, which isn't suitable, and if you're going for treatment for six weeks at a time you can't rely on friends and family. "Also, if you have three or four in the car they can talk to each other, support each other and learn from each other - and I learn too.

"It takes away the anxiety from patients and their families. "I feel very humble when I hear their stories."