“Behind every journey made on the bikes, there’s a patient – someone is waiting for a critical test result, medication, equipment or urgent medical notes.”
I’m speaking with Phil Dodsworth, one of the Trustees of Blood Bikes Scotland (BBS). BBS is a voluntary organisation which supports the NHS by transporting, free of charge, blood and other test samples from wards to laboratories. They also deliver medication to patients’ homes, and support GPs, District Nurses, care homes and community hospitals with transport of small, urgent items.
“The bikes can get through traffic quickly – especially useful when the journey includes the by-pass during rush hours – so we can get pathology samples to labs quickly, or urgent medication to patients who need it,” explains Phil.
While speed is of the essence for much of their work, the biggest benefit is cost avoidance for the NHS. By being on-call to provide urgent transport free of charge, BBS saves the NHS a significant amount of money that would otherwise be spent on their own drivers, external courier services and taxis.
Volunteer riders, controllers and everyone involved provides the service completely free of charge. In 2021 they saved the NHS hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Blood Bikes Scotland cover the Lothians, Forth Valley, Borders, Fife and Tayside. Sister organisations support NHS Trusts elsewhere in Scotland and the UK, and they all work together in relays when necessary to cover long distances. Recently, a sample had to be taken urgently from the new Sick Kids Hospital in Edinburgh to a specialist laboratory in Bristol. In awful weather just before Christmas, BBS, Dumfries & Galloway Blood Bikes, North West Blood Bikes, Staffs & Shropshire Blood Bikes and Severn Freewheelers EVS all worked in relay and delivered the sample in 7.5 hours.
Whilst not blue-light vehicles, the incredible value of the service provided by blood bikes is formally recognised in that, like the emergency services, they are exempt from road tax. During the height of the first lockdown in 2020, blood bikes continued to deliver vital PPE and Covid test samples, and BP included them in their free fuel provision along with police, fire and NHS vehicles. Many of us know what it’s like to be anxiously waiting for a Covid PCR test result, and in Fife the NHS is currently using BBS to transport the huge number of PCR tests they are carrying out - getting them to the laboratories, helping to keep results turnaround time as short as possible, and reducing pressure on the trust’s own transport hub.
Other items needing transport include baby milk and, believe it or not, physical files of patient notes or x-rays urgently needed by medics.
Riders are out in all weather conditions, and the fleet of BMW bikes are modified to allow for ambitious load carrying
The fleet of 14 motorcycles is supplemented by three cars for transporting larger equipment – although they have been known to strap a walking frame to the back of a motorcycle on one occasion when it was urgently needed! Riders are out in all weather conditions, and the fleet of BMW bikes are modified to allow for ambitious load carrying, with panniers and a tray on most bikes. There are nine R1250RTs, two F750GSs and a couple of other bikes - including one Zero electric motorbike suitable for short fast runs.
Volunteer riders, controllers and everyone involved provides the service completely free of charge. Operating in shifts 7 days a week, including public holidays, in 2021 they received 9881 requests for transport, and saved the NHS hundreds of thousands of pounds in fees – money that can be used directly for frontline services instead.
The monthly overhead for the charity of running the bikes 365 days a year (tyres, insurance, fuel, maintenance and repairs) is around £4,500. The service is entirely dependent on donations from the public and corporate sponsors, so they are grateful for every single donation. You can raise money for Blood Bikes Scotland while shopping online, completely free of charge to you – see below for details.
Phil was once called on to take a teddy bear to a distraught little girl in the Sick Kids who had left it behind and was unable to settle. Teddy promptly arrived by motorcycle (which was on its way anyway with other jobs for the hospital) to a happy little girl and great relief of parents and nurses. There are some things whose value you just can’t measure.
Give as you Live – free and easy way to raise money
Shop with a huge number of retailers via Give as You Live, and a percentage of your purchase value is donated to BBS.
Direct donations are also welcome from the public and businesses.
See ways to donate at https://bloodbikesscotland.co.uk/donate
Volunteers are always welcome to join the current team of 120 motorcyclists covering the area including the Lothians, from Tayside to the Borders. Riders need an advanced riding qualification.
Non-riding volunteers are also welcome; every shift needs a Controller, the point of contact between the NHS and the riders. Please contact BBS at the details below.
For more information see https://bloodbikesscotland.co.uk/
Visit them on Facebook
Blood Bikes Scotland is a registered charity, number SC042970
All images courtesy of Blood Bikes Scotland
Published in Konect February 2022
Author: Helen-Jane Gisbourne