FIRST responders in Shipston now have a brand new vehicle to use thanks to a £25,000 donation from the League of Friends of Shipston Hospitals.

The keys to the 4X4 Subaru Forester were officially handed over at the Crossroads Garage, in Tredington, near Shipston, on Saturday, and the vehicle has already been making a difference.

Before the donation, the group of seven first responders had been using their own cars while they raised enough money to buy a second hand vehicle.

Francis French, chairman of League of Friends of Shipston Hospitals, said they were able to donate the money after they were left with a generous legacy by the late Percy Lomas, of Halford.

"We rely on the responders not just for Shipston but for the villages all around here," she said. "Originally the ambulance service gave them an old ambulance car and we helped to equip that. The first responders have no help, they have to raise money or other people give them help.

"The car was beyond repair and they asked if we could donate money for a second hand car but we just felt it was such an important job. You just don't know with second hand cars.

"We were in a position where we were able to offer to buy them a brand new one."

Shipston paramedic Stuart Eastbury, aged 22, who co-ordinates the group, said they were delighted with the donation.

"I was shocked at first," he said. "It's absolutely brilliant, we can't thank them enough. It would have meant we would have had to buy a second hand car with limited funds we've got. It's been a great help."

And he said the new vehicle had made a huge difference already in just a month since it had been in service.

"Since we've been on the road we've been to 40 call outs," he added. "It just means we can get their easier and we don't have to rely on our own vehicles. It's made a massive impact.

"Because it's a 4X4, when it comes to winter if we have flooding again we will be able to respond and get through that easily."