Page last updated at 14:30 GMT, Monday, 2 June 2008 15:30 UK

Top award for volunteer couriers

Freewheelers' bike - image copyright Adam Bolton
All the volunteer riders hold advanced driving qualifications

A group of motorcyclists who provide an emergency medical courier service for hospitals in the West have won a Queen's Award for Voluntary Service.

Freewheelers, a charity which operates in Weston-super-Mare, Bristol, Bath and parts of west Wiltshire, has 45 riders and uses three high-powered bikes.

Items carried include blood, X-rays, samples, drugs and medical notes.

The award is the highest honour that can be bestowed on volunteer groups and is equivalent in status to the MBE.

Calls to the service are graded according to urgency and for emergency deliveries the riders are allowed to use blue lights and sirens but cannot break the speed limit or any traffic laws.

We estimate the money we save the NHS pays for three nurses
Mike Belch

The charity is run by volunteers and all its riders hold advanced motorcycling qualifications.

Mike Belch, one of the Somerset riders, said the award was a real shot in the arm for the service.

"It's fantastic news and we're really happy to win the award, We started out with one bike in Weston on 1991 and have expanded to cover Bristol Somerset and west Wiltshire.

"We estimate the money we save the NHS pays for three nurses."

The Freewheelers service operates between 1900 and 0700 on weekdays and 24 hours at weekends.

Biker charity offers NHS delivery
22 Jan 08 |  Merseyside

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