Recognition comes at a cost

Voluntary emergency service has to undergo makeover after securing service level agreements with the NHS.

A Honiton-based charity has secured service level agreements with every primary care trust in Devon to provide an out-of-hours emergency response service.

But the accreditation has come at a cost. Devon Freewheelers, founded by Honiton man Daniel Lavery two years ago, has now undergone major changes to comply with regulations applicable to authorised agents for the NHS.

It has had to spend thousands of pounds on its livery to meet Department of Transport guidelines - while, at the same time, distinguishing itself from other emergency services.

But the charity, which delivers blood, human organs and breast milk to hospitals at night and during weekends, says it is fund-raising hard to pay for its blood bikes to be repainted green and yellow - a requirement set out in the National Health Service Act 1977.

Mr Lavery sought expert advice to ensure the charity’s bikes comply with the law. He said: “We have had to be very careful not to breach onto the territory of other emergency response personnel within the medical sector, such as ambulances and paramedics.

“Our bikes are not passenger carrying vehicles for the purposes of transporting patients so we have no right to display the word ambulance anywhere and we are not paramedics so, again, the word is nowhere to be seen.

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“It has been extremely difficult to comply with the regulations and still separate ourselves from our fellow professionals and have had many discussions about how we can comply and still remain unique in our appearance.”

Devon Freewheelers has avoided public confusion by retaining a red flash on the rear of riders’ jackets.

Mr Lavery said: “This will immediately identify, at a glance, that the riders are not paramedics or ambulance personnel and avoid public confusion.”

The cost of applying the new livery to its bikes will be �3,500 - “a costly exercise, especially for a registered charity”, Mr Lavery pointed out.

He expects the figure to be raised within three months and is grateful for the support of Honiton and District Lions Club.

On average, Devon Freewheelers receives 43 call-outs a week.

It claims to be the only voluntary organisation of its kind in the country trained by a police force in blue light awareness and is the only charity of its kind to be given to the emergency services’ shared radio network.

“Every day we set a new goal,” said Mr Lavery, who is hoping local businesses will sponsor the charity’s bikes.

To sponsor Devon Freewhelers or to find out more email

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