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Emergency Voluntary Service, Devon Freewheelers have fast-tracked the ability for NHS workers to get back onto the frontline by collecting COVID-19 test samples from the homes of personnel in isolation and delivering them to Pathology labs where results can be provided within three hours.

Also known as the Devon Blood Bikers, the organisation traditionally relies on volunteer drivers and riders to deliver 24/7 services including urgent community response, organ transport for transplants, blood transfusion deliveries, ambulance for the NHS, and more. In light of the current global COVID-19 pandemic, numerous NHS staff have been quarantined in their homes upon themselves or a family member presenting symptoms.

CEO of Devon Freewheelers, Daniel Lavery explains, “Some NHS staff are not able to access tests themselves so they are having to isolate at home, we saw this as an opportunity to help and so we have taken on the responsibility of providing the testing for all of those staff and their families as well. Some of the highest priority members of the NHS team, for example ICU nurses, might be isolating at home because their child is ill and symptomatic of COVID-19. They can't return to work. So we are going out into the community and doing a door step COVID-19 test, taking them straight to the Path lab as a priority and then they are processing the test within 3hrs. So by the end of the day the staff in question can be advised if they can go back to work.”

“This will allow a huge amount of staff to return to work because it can be confirmed that they haven't actually got the virus. It also relieves the anxiety of the staff because it provides an answer,” commented Daniel, who's team recently delivered twenty tests within a six hour period.

Devon Blood Bikers are hoping to extend the service to NHS workers in Devon as a whole, including social workers, mental health teams, etc. They are also seeking to support the Police force in the same way. 

Constantly on the lookout for service vehicles, the organisation recently acquired two second-hand Kawasaki 1400GTR motorcycles from Wigan Kawasaki. Being located approximately 250 miles from Devon wasn't an issue for the Kawasaki dealership who were more than glad to assist by means of having volunteer staff prepare the bikes and deliver them to Devon.

Dealer Principal of Wigan Kawasaki, Dave Brown said “It was a stroke of luck really. Sales and Marketing Manager at Kawasaki UK, Craig Watson put us in touch and we would do anything to help given the current situation. Getting these bikes to essential Key workers in desperate times was the main objective and members of our team happily volunteered their time to get the bikes ready, observing rules about distancing in the workshop of course!”

“I'm chuffed that we have managed to find a Kawasaki supplier who had two GTRs in stock. The Kawasaki 1400GTR has proved its worth and we have multiple on our fleet. At the early stages, we went through testing with Kawasaki including necessary payload testing for carrying blood, and it eventually became our Authority spec machine. We fell in love with the GTRs and at the moment with Corona Virus, this is the first time that we as an organisation have had to respond to a category 4 level of national emergency, which is the highest level that exists. The GTRs are out there transferring the blood and COVID-19 samples. We are in an unprecedented situation where we have a fleet of thirty eight vehicles and if we had fifty vehicles, it wouldn't be enough over the last week!” Daniel from Devon Freewheelers said.

Daniel Lavery founded the organisation in 2009 and at the time never envisaged that they would be dealing with a crisis of this scale.“We have eighty three riders who are all volunteers and a very professional bunch of people. We have Police, Fire and Ambulance guys through to the unemployed, able and disabled, who volunteer their services. No matter who you are in your community, there is something you can offer to Devon Freewheelers. They are the hidden hero's. Everything they do is quietly and without reward but every time they turn a wheel they are saving a life,” Daniel commented.

Find out how you can donate and support the Devon Freewheelers here - https://www.devonfreewheelers.org.uk/ 

Photo credit - David Wellbeloved Photography 


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