A BLOOD bike charity that offers a lifeline to patients across the country has called upon the Government to exempt them from fuel duty ahead of next Wednesday’s budget.

With petrol and diesel prices reaching record levels local blood bike groups like the Severn Freewheelers, who regularly do pathology runs from Cirencester hospital to Gloucester and Cheltenham for patients, are struggling to meet the costs.

In response to this crisis, the Nationwide Association of Blood Bikes, set up by Cirencester resident Gordon Downie, has launched a petition asking the Government to return collected fuel duty to blood bike member groups in the form of grants.

So far over 1400 people have signed the petition.

The Nationwide Association of Bloodbikes’ treasurer and founder Mr Downie said: "Our fuel costs are just going up and up and that makes it very difficult for us to continue our vital service.

“With no assistance or government funding, charities like ours are already feeling the strain on the recession, but it’s the fuel costs that hits us the hardest, not getting any exemption from fuel duty.”

The Nationwide Association of Blood Bikes is a charity that transports blood, plasma, platelets, samples, vaccines, human breast milk and other urgently required medical items to hospitals and special baby units - completely free of charge. The courier service is run by dedicated volunteers and is completely dependent on public donations.

Local group the Severn Freewheelers have four bikes in regular service in the area of Gloucestershire, North Wiltshire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire, with two other bikes on reserve. The emergency response BMW R1200RT bikes cover 150,000 miles a year, make around 350 calls per month and their current fuel bill for the four bikes is over £1500 a month.

Mr Downie believes that reducing the fuel duty burden on blood bike charities will have a positive impact on the work that groups like the Severn Freewheelers can carry out.

He said: “We are hoping people will back our campaign to force the Government to debate that matter.

“Allowing The Nationwide Association of Blood Bike groups to recoup fuel duty would not only assist us, but to the public and NHS at large, as we could be able expand the vital service operations throughout the country.”

• For further details about The Nationwide Association of Blood Bikes, please visit: www.bloodbikes.org.uk

• The annual Prescott Bike Festival is on Sunday, April 7 to raise awareness and funds for The Nationwide Association of Blood Bikes and the Severn Freewheeelers at Prescott Hill Climb, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. For further information on this family day visit: www.prescottbikefestival.co.uk