Backing for bike delivery service

Lion President presents the cheque to Peter Robertson (left) and Owain Harris of Northumbria Blood Bikes.

Lion President presents the cheque to Peter Robertson (left) and Owain Harris of Northumbria Blood Bikes.

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Morpeth Lions Club

Members enjoyed an evening with a difference when two members of the Northumbria Blood Bikes (NBB) charity came along to give a talk.

The added attraction was to see one of the motorcycles used to transport blood, blood products, samples and test results to North East hospitals. After viewing and sitting on the bike, the Lions adjourned indoors for an extremely interesting presentation on the work of NBB.

Peter Robertson and Owain Harris explained how the charity came to be formed, its work and its plans for the future.

The concept of blood bikes started in the south of England some 40 years ago. They are staffed entirely by volunteers and deliver urgent medical supplies between hospitals and healthcare sites in the evenings and at night.

An average hospital would have spent around £25,000 on out of hours transport, though this is higher in the case of the RVI or Freeman Hospitals.

Funding of Blood Bikes is entirely by donations and sponsorship and the volunteers all work for free, with no expenses taken.

In 2011, a Nationwide Association of Blood Bikes (NABB) was formed. By 2012, member groups carried out 25,000 runs for the NHS and in 2013 there were 22 blood bike groups across the country.

The decision to form a Northumbria group was taken in 2012. This was a quite complicated task as it involved such matters as a constitution, setting up a bank account and HMRC and Charity Commissioners registration.

In addition, extensive liaison was needed with the NHS, as well as training and qualifications, insurance, operational procedures, fund-raising and publicity to establish.

In just over a year, the group raised £25,000 and started to buy its bikes.

NBB will shortly have service level agreements with the six NHS Trusts in Durham, Tyne and Wear and Northumberland. The controllers and riders work to an operational handbook. The aim is to respond to calls within 30 minutes.

NBB now has four bikes and more than 100 members, with 60 having undertaken assessments and riding qualifications. The overall need is for eight bikes and between 60 and 70 riders.

The motorbikes are big sport tourers chosen for comfort and weight. They have blue lights for emergencies, but these are rarely used.

They are dedicated for NBB and not owned by individuals. Bikes are passed on to the next rider at the end of a shift.

Unsurprisingly, several volunteers are involved in fund-raising activities.

These include supermarket bag packing, attending publicity events and fairs, talks, workplace visits, sponsorship and taking part in major events such as the Great North Run.

After a lively discussion, Morpeth Lions Club President Geoff Bushell thanked Mr Robinson and Mr Harris for their presentation and handed them a cheque for £150 for the charity.

For more information about NBB, visit www.northumbriabloodbikes.org.uk