As a newborn baby lay in hospital in desperate need of a blood transfusion, it was not flashing blue lights, or professionals in uniform which came to save the day.

It was in fact one of 50 volunteers across the county who left his family on Christmas Day, to deliver the life-saving box of blood.

For the last 32 years, people living in Epping Forest and the rest of the county have been giving up their nights to help to save lives.

Essex Blood Runners began in 2011 after breaking away from the group SERV Kent and Essex in 2008. It is now independent charity, The Essex Voluntary Blood Service.

The chairwoman, Carol Peacock whose partner Keith Weller delivered the life-saving blood on Christmas day, says that the idea is for people to show thanks to the NHS.

She said: “We have volunteers from Clacton to Southend to Epping and London.

“I joined because I wanted to give something back. I have three disabled children and I had a gastric bypass in 2009. I lost 12.5 stone and I wanted to give something back.

“After everything that has been done in the hospitals for our family, we wanted to do this.”

Between Mr and Mrs Peacock they do three to four runs every night, paying for their own petrol.

Each journey taken by a volunteer saves the NHS around £100.

So far last month, Mrs Peacock's family, who live just outside Colchester, had transported blood boxes 55 times.

The charity which delivers 365 days a year to areas such as Basildon, Colchester, Harlow and Ilford and is looking to expand to the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel and others in the capital.

Volunteers begin at 7pm on weekdays and the weekend shift it covered from 7pm on Friday until 7am on Monday.

Mrs Peacock says that there is just a few hours training involved on routes and blood handling before people can start the job.

The 44-year-old said: “I love it.

“Some people do it because they are bored in the evenings. We only ask people to commit to a minimum of two nights per month.

“The feeling you get when you know that what you are doing is saving lives, it’s just incredible.”

Anyone who wishes to find out more about becoming a blood runner should email