Norfolk to get new blood bike scheme
A new health service will soon hit the road to provide an out-of-hours courier service to Norfolk hospitals. Volunteer motorcyclists are preparing to launch a 'blood bike' service in the county which will save the NHS thousands of pounds every year. STACIA BRIGGS reports.
A group of motorcycling volunteers from Norfolk has set up a biking emergency service to make speedy life-saving deliveries to three county hospitals.
Service by Emergency Rider Volunteers Norfolk (SERV) is a newly established, voluntary organisation that serves the NHS in the county, delivering vital materials such as blood and plasma out of working hours.
Under the umbrella of the national SERV organisation, the Norfolk branch plans to go live in West Norfolk at the end of September to help medics at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn.
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The service will then be rolled out across the county to offer the free collection and delivery service to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and the James Paget Hospital in Gorleston.
'At the moment, if medics need blood or plasma out of hours, they have to rely on couriers from the private sector or taxis which are very expensive,' said county secretary David Parish.
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'What we want to do is provide a free service which will allow the NHS to divert the money they save into patient care. Essentially, we want to give something back.
'The major advantage of using bikes to courier blood and other materials is that we can offer a far more predictable service than a car because we can overcome issues such as traffic jams.
'I think we are all very aware of the fact that it might be us that needs help from the NHS one day, and this is our way of saying thank you.'
There are around 80 registered riders who will sign up for shifts on the 'blood bike' rota, all of whom have been trained in the correct handling of blood and other medical materials and who will ride liveried motorcycles with the option to use flashing blue lights.
Trained and qualified to an advanced level of motorcycle handling, the volunteers will be available between the hours of 7pm and 6am, seven days a week, 52 weeks of the year.
'We'll be available to help the hospitals, whether they need us to ride to Addenbrookes to bring back blood or if they need us to transport medical supplies between hospitals in Norfolk,' said Mr Parish.
'We will also look into the possibility of helping maternity units with the collection and transport of breast milk which is used to support premature babies. Basically, we will do what we can.'
Fervent fundraising has already begun to raise the cash to buy, maintain and run two motorcycles, one of which will be based in the east of the county, with the other in the west. On September 17 and 18, a delegation of riders from SERV Norfolk will take on the East to West Challenge, a sponsored motorcycle ride from Lowestoft to Land's End and back within 24 hours.
'Although the riders, controllers and other volunteers give their time and expertise for free, we need to raise money in order to be able to function,' said Mr Parish, who has been riding a motorcycle for 35 years.
In order to serve Norfolk, the group estimates that annual running costs will be around �20,000 – without including the cost of the two motorcycles, a Honda ST 1300 and a BMW 1200 RT.
'We would ask as many people as possible to support us so that we can support the hospitals. We've had a great response from local businesses – Adrian Flux Insurance is sponsoring one of our bikes and we're hopeful that we'll find people to sponsor our tyres and so forth,' added Mr Parish.
'I suppose there are still people out there that think of motorcyclists as Hell's Angels, but we're trying to change those people's perceptions so that they see us as guardian angels.
'We hope as many people will support us as possible so that we can keep this service on the road.'
Robert Balls, of specialist motorcycle broker Bikesure, a division of Adrian Flux Insurance, said: 'We're very aware that it can be difficult to insure such a specialised type of motorcycle, so we were delighted to offer sponsorship. It's a great scheme and we wish SERV all the best in the future.'
For more information about how to get involved, to sponsor riders on the East to West Challenge or to offer corporate sponsorship, visit servnorfolk.org.uk