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  • May 01, 2020 3 min read

    Blood Bikers provide an invaluable and life-saving service to the NHS. Here LAM member Colin Dawson gives a personal account of his role as a Blood Biker

    It’s 2.30 am, I’m in bed in the spare room, the phone rings… and the friendly voice of controller Derek says “Are you awake – can you pick up a box of blood from NHS Blood and Transplant centre at St George’s Hospital in Tooting and deliver to St Peter’s Hospital in Chertsey? ‘It’s what we do’… so off I go. No delay with the pickup, A3, M25 and then on to Chertsey.

    Having delivered my precious cargo and about to text “delivered” to Derek, my phone rings again as I leave the hospital…. ”As you’re down that way could you go on to Royal Surrey County Hospital at Guildford to meet a rider who’s coming up from Portsmouth with a sample to go back to London for testing?” OK. I set off for Guildford, meet my colleague from Wessex and check the destination for the sample. Ah, not NHSBT Tooting but “The Doctors’ Lab” in Whitfield Street London W1. I set the postcode into the sat-nav and contemplate the route from Guildford to Central London. A3, Wimbledon, Barnes, Hammersmith Bridge (it was still open then) Shepherd’s Bush, Westway – A4, Marylebone Road, Euston Road, then a right turn into the back streets around Tottenham Court Road and eventually to Whitfield Street. Security lets me in, I deliver the sample and get a signature, check back with my controller to let him know that all is well – then to find my way home. I carry on down through central London, eventually cross the river at London Bridge and then on to familiar roads and home around 5.30am, just as it’s getting light. A three hour trip and just about 100 miles.

    I started volunteering for SERV SSL three years ago. We have around 200 members and we are one of over 30 similar groups across the country, under the overall banner of the Nationwide Association of Bloodbikes - SERV has a number of marked ‘fleet’ bikes but most of us use our own bikes – and sometimes cars if the weather is really bad – at no cost to the charity or the NHS. We are on duty twice a month – more if we choose to volunteer to do so – and we are ‘on call’ from 7 pm to 6 am the following morning, responding to requests from hospitals, allocated by our duty controller.

    We are all advanced-qualified riders. When I joined SERV the agreement was that you started training for your ad-qual in the first year of volunteering – which I did with the help and support of a great bunch of people at LAM. Now the regulations have changed and you need to be ad-qual before you start.

    Why do I do it? Well, I guess most of us have good reason to be very grateful for our wonderful NHS – I know I have. The NHS is strapped for cash and this is one way that I can give something back (and there is something a bit special about riding through the streets of the capital in the middle of the night or the early hours of the morning!) But I think the greatest reward is the reaction from the pathologists at the hospitals we deliver to. One example: I took a pack of blood to St Thomas’ Hospital – an urgent request for a premature baby that needed a transfusion. The person who received it was so grateful, she said: “I can’t say definitely that you’ve saved a life tonight, but I think you might have..”. I took a deep breath, wiped a tear from my eye and headed back home.

    At the time of writing this we’ve had to suspend recruitment due to the Coronavirus pandemic and the difficulty in arranging induction/information sessions and familiarisation runs for new recruits. But we always need new people, so if you’d like to know more or would like to join us when things ease up contact Martin Whitehead on 07432 221981 or e-mail recruitment@servssl.org.uk


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