Speedy analysis of blood samples is essential for assessing the most appropriate treatment for our patients at Wirral Hospice St John’s. Both outpatients and inpatients benefit from such tests which are, predominantly, carried out at Arrowe Park Hospital.
So for the most efficient transfer to the lab, we’ve been building our partnership with the brilliant team at Merseyside and Cheshire Blood Bikes (MCBB) over the past few months.
I met with trustee of MCBB, Norman Corke, alongside rider Peter Preston, (pictured here l-r), to find out a little more about the motivation of volunteers, day to day operations and what happens behind the scenes to make it all work.
Blood Bikes are an essential support to many parts of the NHS, and now also the hospice. What is more is, they provide their fantastic service costing us, precisely, zero, zilch, gratis, it’s FREE!
These lads and ladies who you’ll see on the highways and byways in their bright yellow, hi-vis jackets, emblazoned with the word ‘BLOOD’ on their backs, are delivering fluid samples, boxes of blood, platelets, plasma, medication and even litres and litres of donated breast milk, and doing it all ‘just to put something back into society!’ Wow, WHAT?
Yes, many use their own bikes, there’s a shared love of motorcycles, and they don’t even claim their petrol expenses! They are literally Angels (not, you’ll understand, Hells Angels!)
As a rider, Peter (pictured here on his bike), can speak at first-hand about the kinds of incentive that draw volunteers to blood bikes.
“Everybody has a personal reason for getting involved. Mine is that I’m so grateful to the NHS which has helped me in my recovery, these past thirteen years, from esophageal cancer. We all love our bikes, obviously, and Blood Bikes gives us the perfect excuse to do exactly what we love for the most amazing causes.
We hardly ever know exactly why a particular delivery is important but I’ve had many instances of grateful family members approaching me to thank me for what ‘we’ have done for them. I’ve been at a petrol station several times and when I’ve arrived at the kiosk to pay, an anonymous member of the public has ‘taken care of it’!”
Trustee Norman tells me that there are more than 75 riders in MCBB and, there are hundreds more in 43 county areas, across the country, affiliated to the Nationwide Association of Blood Bikes whose slogan is ‘we may well be having the ride of your life!‘. Nice!
In every region there’s a dedicated ‘backroom’ of volunteer duty controllers. These are the people who take the phone-calls and then disseminate jobs to the riders. They also give all their time for free.
The hospice call an 0843 number, peak times are between 12.30pm-1.30pm and 5.00pm-6.00pm, although there are other times when the service may be urgent and the call is routed to a duty controller to find the nearest driver.
Riders have to be over 25, have held a full, clean, motorcycle licence for over two years with no ‘fault’ accident in the last five. There are 8 fully liveried, ‘marked,’ bikes in the MCBB fleet, with many riders using their own vehicles.
Various partner organisations have donated the funds to purchase the marked bikes over the past couple of years, recognising the importance of Blood Bikes to the smooth and efficient transfer of materials between health environments, as well as medications to people who need them. (The Provincial Grand Lodge of Cheshire Freemasons, also hospice supporters, purchased this Blood Bike, The Cheshire Mason).
Sometimes bloods and other samples have to be transferred across the country and the journeys are facilitated by a ‘relay’ system which has bikers meeting around county borders and in motorway service areas to keep the samples moving.
Norman tells me how 450 litres of breast milk goes via Holyhead to Ireland, Northern and the Republic, every year on Blood Bikes.
New bikes are fitted with ‘Blues and Two’s’ but it’s not yet legal for them to be used by the Blood Bikes riders, whatever the urgency of any particular job. So they can’t ‘jump lights or drive discourteously. They are at pains to be ambassadors for safe motorcycle riding.
And the courtesy has not gone unnoticed. In August the Chair of MCBB, Simon Dennett, received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service on behalf of all the incredible people who give their time for this invaluable charity. Simon was effusive about the people who make it happen,
“This award has brought a very much deserved boost to our members, their dedication and commitment without hope of reward is humbling to witness. Their passion in the service we deliver has been recognised by Her Majesty and the entire group is bursting with pride as we look forward to the recognition which accompanies it.”
And we, at Wirral Hospice St John’s, salute everyone involved.
‘God speed’, as they say!
Author: Billy Howard