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New ‘blood bikers’ helping the NHS save lives

blood bikes 10.3.14

A unique blood delivery service provided by motorcyclists to the NHS is being extended to hospitals across the North East.

Darlington Memorial Hospital, part of the County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, is teaming up with Northumbria Blood Bikes, a group of volunteer motorcyclists who deliver life-saving blood products.

The new 'blood runners' service now means that there is a dedicated group permanently on call.

The hospital currently receives two deliveries every day from the NHS Blood Transfusion Centre (NHSBTC) in Newcastle. However, out of hours, a lack of a dedicated service meant that the hospital was using taxi services and ad hoc NHSBTC deliveries to pick up blood to replenish stocks that were running low.

But now, the motorcyclists operate a rota system and are available to pick up and deliver blood out-of-hours between 7pm and 7am.

If successful, the partnership could be extended to the University Hospital of North Durham.

Russell Irwin, Haematology and Transfusion Manager, Darlington Memorial Hospital, said: "Blood products are essential to our work and the blood bikers offer a dedicated means of courier transport to replenish supplies quickly and efficiently when they are running low.

"We keep blood banks at the hospital with stocks of all types of blood. But when a department is busy and demand is high, or when we need blood with special requirements or blood products such as platelets, we need to restock.

"The partnership with Northumbrian Blood Bikes means we can provide better services for patients. We can replenish the Darlington blood bank through the night and at weekends and get blood that has special requirements on a defined system."

The blood bikers set up their voluntary group a year ago. They formed a charity, inspired by the National Association of Blood Bikes, and they have been busy recruiting volunteers (they now have around 80 members), raising funds and buying three motorbikes to ensure continuity of service.

The group ran trial runs to Darlington, without blood, to test its own organisation and call-out procedures and has now signed a service agreement with Darlington to cover out-of-hours provision to the hospital.  All of the blood bikers are advanced-level trained motorcyclists and attend a blood handling course. The riders are uniformed and the motorbikes are all easily identified - liveried with the Blood Bikes' logo and colours.

Northumbria Blood Bikes doesn't have a base for its machines so the outgoing rider hands on the blood bike to the in-coming rider who then takes the other person home. In the future, they're looking into having a base for the bikes, maybe at a hospital.

Owain Harris from Northumbria Blood Bikes said: "Our service is provided free of charge and means that the NHS can save money which would otherwise be spent on taxis or couriers, and this can be re-invested in frontline services and patient care.

"We donate our time and skills for free because we want to help save lives and improve patient care. We offer a dedicated service that we hope we can extend to other areas of the North East."

Wansbeck, Gateshead Queen Elizabeth and South Shields hospitals are also currently using the service. The group are discussing rolling out their service with other hospitals in the North East.

'I have to compliment everyone on their pleasant persona and their expertise and knowledge. By the end of the 5 days, I did not feel as though I had been in a hospital ward and was very relaxed.'

Patient, Ward 16 Orthopaedics, University Hospital of North Durham