Supporting the National Health Service
A BRIEF History of Blood Bikes Wales
We haven’t always been here. Below we give you an insight in what brought us as a charity together and where the concept of Blood Bikes came from.
THE Start of it all
Blood Bikers may trace their origins back to the foundation of two groups in the 1960s. In the early part of that decade Margaret Ryerson and her husband formed Surrey’s Emergency Volunteer Service to put riders’ love of motorcycling to practical use supporting hospitals.
By 1969, Des Gibbons had created the Freewheelers youth community action group providing a similar hospital transport service serving Stevenage’s Lister Hospital, the Luton & Dunstable Hospital, Hitchin Hospital and maternity unit and two Bedford hospitals.
Those two original groups are no longer in existence, but the baton passed to other groups that have spread across the UK, many still bearing the SERV and Freewheelers name in honour of their forebears.
The start of Blood Bikes Wales.
Having been inspired by an episode of Emergency Bikes, a group of bikers had their first meeting in 2011 to discuss establishing a service in Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board area. It took some time to arrange the logistics, train riders, acquire a fleet of bikes etc but by Easter 2013 Blood Bikes Wales commenced our first live shift to assist our NHS.
Some of our founder members are still with the charity and tell of filling up the tank or paying for the MOT out of their own pocket on bikes they purchased second hand from other Blood Bike groups. Others describe how they slept in the back of a van or travelled considerable distance just to make sure they were available for duty. But they created a legacy for us to build upon and we have come a long way since.
Growing into the charity we are today
We started across the south first
Over the next couple of years Blood Bikes Wales grew steadily across the south, mid and west Wales going on to assist Aneurin Bevan, Powys and Cwm Taf health boards and Hywel Dda in Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire.
Then in 2016 our groups in north Wales were established in the north west (Bangor) and north east (Wrexham) expanding our volunteer service across the whole of Wales and encompassing Betsi Cadwaladr UHB. This made Blood Bikes Wales the largest Blood Bike group by area and with nearly 400 members, 24 bikes and no paid staff possibly one of the largest all volunteer charities in the country. In 2017-18 our fleet covered over 220,000 miles at no cost to the NHS and to date we have fulfilled over 12½ thousand jobs.
But our work continues, in early 2019 we had the first meeting of our fledgling Powys group centred on
Llandrindod Wells. Supported by the rest of Blood Bikes Wales we are working with our new volunteers to raise volunteers, money, awareness and conduct training with the goal of establishing a service there later this year.
One Massive Team across the UK
Blood Bikes Wales are only part of a network of 34 (in 2016) similar volunteer groups across the UK and Ireland, most of whom are affiliated with the National Association of Blood Bikes (NABB) that collectively represents groups at a national level. This network means we can transport items quickly, efficiently and for the NHS, at no cost whatsoever from one end of the country to the other.
Many people we speak to are not aware that we are all volunteers and question why the NHS needs us at all? We don’t replace existing NHS courier services, but we do augment them, often taking on the smaller jobs that it would be impractical or costly for a health board to complete.
Chairman’s Remarks on our History
It’s difficult to estimate how much money we save the NHS as each health board uses our services in a different fashion depending upon their needs. We also assist other charities such as Northwest Milk Bank to collect and distribute donor breast milk to neonatal intensive care units. But if you consider that if we were not there a hospital might ask an ambulance, pay a courier or even a taxi to complete the task, all of which impact on their service or cost money that would be better spent on caring for patients. Costs will vary but one such courier service in one health board is paid £2 per mile. Multiply that by 220k and this gives you some idea of the contribution we make each year.
One job we do know the cost for was the transfer of a sample taken from a new born baby in Wrexham. The hospital called us late one Wednesday afternoon, ‘Could we take the sample to UHW Cardiff?’ ‘Certainly’ we responded. Our Wrexham rider collected the sample and headed south. Meanwhile our South Wales rider headed north and they rendezvoused at Llandrindod Wells. The nurse later told us the hospital had got a quote from a courier of £700-£800 next day delivery. As it was we got the sample there that evening, the test was performed and the treatment ready first thing in the morning.
The cost? Nothing, nada, gratis, absolutely nowt. And that is a very nice thing to tell a hard working nurse.
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Blood Bikes Wales are a charity based in Wales, providing a completely free courier service to the NHS, delivering blood supplies, plasma, documents and other items all across Wales.
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