Blood bike volunteers gather in Oban

Oban's blood bike volunteers gather on the North Pier

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Fourteen experienced motorcyclists from across the Oban area have signed up to help the Highland and Islands Blood Bikes service.

At the North Pier on Sunday, the volunteers got the chance to see the fully-liveried 1300cc Yamaha FJR sports tourer as it was handed over to the town.

Local bikers, with decades of experience on two wheels at home and abroad, will now start sharing it on round-the-clock shifts every month.

The bikes are used to collect and shuttle important medical cargo between hospitals and surgeries – cutting couriering costs to the NHS.

Cargoes can include blood samples, pharmaceutical products, baby milk and top-of-the-range parts, right down to the humble printer ribbon.

The majority of the work lately has been running COVID-19 samples.

The bike will be seen on the roads between Oban, Campbeltown, Fort William and Inverness.

Experienced rider Jeremy Richardson, chairman of Highland and Islands Blood Bikes, drove down on Sunday to deliver the bike.

He was accompanied by vice-chairman Graham Allan, of Inverness and Oban’s Jason MacPhail, a HGV driver, who got a go on the eye-catching Yammy.

Mr Richardson said of the service: ‘There’s no payment to anybody and no charge to the NHS. What we do is to run things around for the NHS which they want moved between the major healthcare establishments.

Oban blood bikes L-R Jason MacPhail of Oban; Jeremy Richardson, chairman of Highland and Islands Blood Bikes, and vice-chair Graham Allan of Inverness

‘So we’ll be running things from Oban’s Lorn and the Islands Hospitals to the main laboratory for the Highlands at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness, or to one of the hospitals in Glasgow.’

He said the response to the recruitment drive from riders in Oban was ‘superb’ and appealed for more to come forward to volunteer.

Sunday saw a chance for volunteers to meet officials, check out the coveted luminous jacket and then be put through their paces in an assessment.

Volunteers attending included Stuart Lawrie, 45, of Taynuilt; Paul Watson, 45, of Connel; along with Roman Gorecki and Andy Buchanan, 58, both Oban.

Mr Gorecki and Mr Buchanan said they wanted to ‘help the NHS’. The latter has served as a special constable for 31 years.

Also there was Kinlochleven men, Mark McGregor, 42, who served as a retained firefighter for 11 years, while Andrew Milne, 59, has clocked up 42 years experience in motorcycling.

When temperatures dip down to 3C and the bike is out-of-action because of the weather, Jonathan McLaughlin, 33, of Oban, will act as a ‘support driver’.

He owns a heavily-modified Vauxhall Monterey complete with heavy duty springs and shocks and 31.5-inch off-road tyres – making it fully-equipped to take on snow, rain and mud.

Mr McLaughlin previously volunteered for a similar scheme in the Brecon Beacons and said it was ‘critical’ people helped the NHS at this time.

To volunteer, please visit https://www.haibloodbikes.co.uk/about/

Jeremy Richardson, chairman of the Highland and Islands Blood Bikes service.

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