Wells WI hear about vital work done by Freewheelers blood bikes

  Posted: 20.11.20 at 09:45 by Veronica Howe

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Wells WI November 2020 meeting report

Twenty-five members joined our Zoom meeting. Our president Anne and secretary Val reported back from the online Somerset County WI Annual Meeting which saw the appointment of a new county chair.

They also enjoyed talks from Tom Heap of Countryfile and Mary-Jess who, while studying music and Mandarin Chinese at university in China, entered and won the Chinese version of X Factor.

Anne reminded members of a forthcoming Zoom meeting for the photography group on November 24.

We will be holding our online Christmas meeting on December 8, and joining Keinton Mandeville WI for their one on December 3. We are still active and in touch with each other despite lockdown.

The 2021 resolution shortlist has been announced and each member is now voting for one of the following:
1. A call to increase awareness of the subtle signs of ovarian cancer
2. Stop women dying prematurely from coronary heart disease
3. Tackling racism and discrimination
4. Protecting nature space to create wildlife-friendly communities
5. Stop the destruction of peat bogs to tackle climate change

Our guest speaker was Richard McGill from Freewheelers, a registered charity founded in 1990 that delivers a service to the NHS and the wider community all over Somerset and the surrounding areas.

Sometimes known as blood bikes, they also deliver pathology and microbiology specimens, patient notes, X-rays, breast milk and other medical supplies to wherever they are needed.

Their regular deliveries to two local air ambulance bases enable casualties to receive blood at the roadside.

In 2019 they made more than 6,000 deliveries, riding more than 170,000 miles. Using the service instead of taxis and couriers saves the NHS an estimated £113 million each year.

Freewheelers is one of about 30 groups that cover almost the entire country, making up the National Association of Blood Bikes.

Sometimes groups join in long-distance relays across the country - Richard described the satisfaction of achieving precision handovers at strategic points along the journey thanks to GPS tracking.

Freewheelers’ motorcycles are equipped with high-visibility markings, blue lights and sirens. Riders also use their own vehicles, with appropriate insurance, and even their own cars when weather conditions are bad.

When on call, bikers can get several calls throughout the night. However, Richard told us they always receive such a warm welcome it makes up for finding a remote location at 3.30am.

They never speed and only use blue lights when necessary. Their work has been described as the responsible face of motorbiking.

Freewheelers is run entirely by volunteers. Besides the bikers, who all hold advanced motorcycling qualifications, there are telephone co-ordinators working from home, people who service the bikes, a webmaster and a team of fund raisers. They were awarded The Queen's Award for Voluntary Service in 2008.

Running costs are between £2,000 and £2,500 a week, mainly fuel and bike servicing but also insurance, GPS trackers, vehicle tax and MOTs. They rely on sponsors, bequests and donations.

Mulberry and Thatchers have recently helped but any offers of practical help with support and fund raising are welcome at www.freewheelers.org.uk.

Our evening ended with a snap lockdown treasure hunt. Members were asked to find in their houses five objects: something wrinkly; purple; squishy; wooden and something that made us happy.

Finds on show included fruits, cuddly toys, cushions, photos of grandchildren, bottles of wine, jewellery and underwear.

New women are always welcome – see our Facebook page for more information https://www.facebook.com/Wellssomersetwi/.

By Veronica Howe

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