DUNCAN BARKES: Volunteers are the lifeblood of the UK

I HAVE long held the view that if it were not for the thousands of volunteers in the UK, this country would grind to a halt.

From those who staff the lifeboats in coastal towns like Selsey, Littlehampton and Shoreham, to the vital work carried out by organisations such as Stonepillow; the Chichester-based homeless charity, volunteers are the driving force behind services that many would expect the government to take responsibility for.

I am particularly keen to highlight the work of one group of volunteers whose work I believe deserves greater exposure. SERV Sussex is a group of bikers who ride the highways after dark to ensure that much-needed blood is delivered to hospital patients who desperately need it.

Their work often makes the difference between life and death.

SERV stands for Service by Emergency Rider Volunteers. A registered charity formed in 1981, its volunteers deliver blood and blood products to hospitals across the southeast of England, free of charge.

Volunteers are on call from 7pm to 6am, 365 nights a year.

The charity answers more than 1,000 emergency calls every year and relies on around 100 riders.

SERV riders, drivers and volunteers do not receive any form of payment for providing this service – they even pay for their own petrol.

Until recently I had no idea that this service existed. I just presumed that the NHS took care of this. The National Blood Transfusion Service does vital work, but if it were not for the great people at SERV, urgently-needed blood would not get delivered.

This time of year inspires reflection.

I for one will be taking a few moments to salute all those who give up their time to volunteer.

If you would like to volunteer with SERV Sussex, or if you are a business looking for a charity to support

in 2103, please visit www.servsussex.org.uk

Email Duncan at duncanbarkes@hotmail.com

Or you can follow him on Twitter: @DuncanBarkes