A hospice has been overwhelmed with support after heartless thieves targeted minibuses used to transport patients.

Ellenor, in Coldharbour Road, Northfleet, can no longer use its two patient minibuses because thieves stole catalytic converters, meaning the buses are inoperable.

Catalytic converters turn toxic gases produced by vehicles into less harmful gases, and often contain platinum or palladium.

The theft has left patients unable to attend sessions with the hospice, as they can no longer be picked up.

Cheri Strudwick, head of marketing at ellenor, said: "People come to ellenor for a range of support, which is open not only to patients facing a terminal illness or a life-limiting condition, but also to their family. Those we care for may be very ill, have mobility problems or might be elderly or frail and our minibuses allow them to get the support they need from us.

"They benefit from a highly valuable service that they will now not be able to access. We are very disappointed by this act and will now need to find charity money, to replace the converters, to enable this patient service to resume."

Since the theft, which happened in the late hours of Tuesday evening (January 30) the hospice has had dozens of calls from people in support.

Miss Strudwick said: "We have had so many phone calls and donations. There has been so much support from the local community. We can't thank them enough and shows the very real difference we make to local families lives."

A JustGiving page has been started by the hospice, on which a statement reads: "We have been completely overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from our community, many of whom have asked how they can make a donation in support of the care ellenor provides.

"If we exceed the cost of servicing our minibuses to get them back on the road, we'll use your generous donations to continue funding our vital service costs. From all of us at ellenor, thank you so very much."

More than £4,748.09 has been raised at the time of writing.

The Justgiving page can be found here.

News Shopper has approached Kent Police for a comment.