TAKING to two wheels and offering up their time for free, the Severn Freewheelers rush urgently needed and life-saving medical items to hospitals and other health institutions.

Also known as blood bikes, the groups are made up of volunteer motorcyclists providing a much needed out-of-hours service.

The Severn Freewheelers blood bikes group was established in 2007, initially covering Cheltenham and Gloucester.

Demand for their service was high, resulting in a rapid expansion to cover Worcestershire, Herefordshire and North Wiltshire – including Kidderminster Hospital.

Starting out as a blood biker, chairman Paul Fairbank explained why he joined up five years ago.

“I joined because my mother died of cancer five years ago,” he said. “I spent an awful lot of time in hospital with her, and after she died I just thought, ‘you know what, I want to do something to help the NHS’.

“I saw how hard working they were.

“I was an advanced motorcyclist already and I spoke to some people at work who already did it who told me to go along. So I did.”

Paul started riding on one of the service’s six motorcycles which are specially marked with reflectives and blue lights.

The 52-year-old said he carried on with the free service because he saw the impact it had and became more involved over time, moving up through the ranks to his current chairman position.

“I have seen the patients who have received stuff that we have delivered; whether it’s mums of babies who have had to have special bits of kit, mums of babies who needed breast milk, the patients who have had to have notes delivered that helped surgeons find out what was wrong with them, and so on,” he said.

“I’ve often had talks with members of staff who have said without us it would have been impossible to get some of the things they have needed to treat people.

“We get a lot of positive feedback from the hospitals themselves.

“They recognise the effort my volunteers put in to keep things running when it’s three in the morning and it’s raining, it’s hard to get out of bed and go on call, but they do it without question.”

There are currently 106 men and women volunteering their nights to deliver the sometimes life-saving packages, which have included whole blood, surgical equipment, pathological samples, medical notes, x-rays, scans, test results and, more recently, breast milk, which Paul said was something people may not have been aware of in previous years unless they needed the milk for their children.

He said: “We send rider out during the day to collect the milk and they go to the ladies who are expressing milk.

“They will collect it and take it to a milk bank.

“If a very premature baby has mum’s milk, his survival rate goes up to 70 per cent.

“One of my riders did have a shock once when he went to collect and when he arrived he found the women had 42 litres of frozen milk to donate.

“But he didn’t get fazed, he just went home and got a van so he could still deliver it.”

The Severn Freewheelers have been going for six years now, relying on public donations to keep them on the road.

It costs £45,000 to run the fleet of six motorbikes 36 days a year, 7pm until 7am on weekdays and 24 hours on the weekends and bank holidays, saving the NHS some £450,000 a year.

In the next three months, the service are set to cover their millionth mile.

For more information, visit severnfreewheelers.org.uk.