What ongoing costs do groups have?
- Saving money for the NHS
- Saving lives
In addition to this the blood bike groups promote a positive image of motorcyclists to the public
The National Health Service does not have unlimited resources. One area that is very costly to the NHS is courier services. These services generally operate during office hours, which means that in the evening and at weekends the hospitals need to make alternative provision for items that need to be transported there and then. In many cases this alternative provision is to use a taxi. With taxi rates around £2 per mile and even more at night, it doesn’t take much for a hospital to run up huge bills.
Imagine trying to get a taxi after 10pm at night, blood bike riders are available from 6pm through the night.
In the South West of England, for example, NHS Blood and Transplant have a regional processing and distribution centre at Filton near Bristol. Many hospitals across the South and South West of England send samples to Filton for urgent cross-matching. This can involve journeys such as 100 miles from QA Hospital in Portsmouth costing £240, or 80 miles from the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital costing £190, but the blood bikes that do this for free, often working together so that a blood bike group in one area hands over at the edge of its area to their neighbouring group.
So why should blood bike groups do this? It is very simple – if they didn’t then more money would have to be found from the taxpayer. Blood bike volunteers give their time, and sometimes their own money, freely. In 2010, just one NABB member group made 2,500 deliveries and travelled over 100,000 miles at a cost of around £25,000 – all of which was paid for by charitable donations. If the NHS had used taxis for the same journeys it would have cost more than £120,000. If hospitals had tried to do it using their own motorcycles and paid staff it would have cost closer to £300,000.
To steal from the Mastercard advertisements, Taxi – £100, Commercial courier – £80, Blood Bike – £0, saving a patient’s life – priceless!
Some people have a negative opinion of motorcyclists. Whether this is because of impatient city-centre couriers, or scare stories about biker gangs, it is something that can unfortunately taint all motorcyclists. All the groups promote good practice among their volunteer riders, who hold an advanced riding qualification to ride on a marked-up blood bike. High-visibility jackets and marked motorcycles mean our riders are very visible to the public when riding so it is essential that they behave with the utmost professionalism at all times. People who see blood bike riders collecting money, or walking into a hospital ward are often amazed that the groups exist and walk away impressed with the work that they do. Slowly, person by person, we manage to change people’s impressions of bikers. This isn’t the groups’ main reason for existing, but it is a happy side-effect of the work that we do.