Derbyshire Blood Bikes is part of a national network of blood bike groups covering most of the UK and Ireland. Most groups are part of the Nationwide Association of Blood Bikes, and Derbyshire is proud to be a part of that Association. All groups are independent charity organisations, raising their own funds and agreeing working arrangements with local NHS Trusts. In that respect, all blood bike groups are distinct in size and scale of operations.
Derbyshire Blood Bikes began in 2011 with a group of Derby-based advanced motorcyclists. The only remaining active member of that original group is Chairman, Bob Whitmore, who established the charity in 2012, gaining formal Charity Commission registration (1143149), with aims which included ‘saving the NHS Money and lives’.
Starting with just two Honda motorcycles, the group served the Derby Hospital Blood Bank to transport occasional diagnostic and referencing samples on an out-of-hours basis, along with establishing the donated-milk transport service to the Birmingham Milk Bank. Eventually, the scheduled weekend service for the city-based Urgent Care Centre Phlebotomy and Sexual Health Clinics gave weekend volunteer riders guaranteed runs.
By 2015, the blood bike fleet had been given a boost with funding from the Derby Scout Movement and Toyota Manufacturing Charitable Trust, acquiring two former Honda NT700V RAF-police service bikes, and a Toyota RAV4, enabling operations in any winter weather.
Volunteer numbers slowly grew and an opportunity was identified to expand the service. Analysis of the hospital-spend on taxis showed even greater demand during the day and in certain parts of the Trust, so, in 2016, the group expanded to a 24/7 service and included Chesterfield Hospital.
The hospital’s demand on the voluntary blood bike service increased significantly during 2016 and the strains on the budget and fleet of motorcycles quickly became apparent, with the group having to meet increased financial challenges.
Funding from the Toyota Trust and from Derbyshire Freemasons, through local body ‘Foundation Derbyshire’, saw two new BMW F800GT replaced the old-high mileage Hondas. An award from the Screwfix Foundation helped place a secure motorcycle store at the Derby Hospital, which greatly improved efficiency and reduced operating costs.
A program of funding events during 2016-17 established financial security for the revenue needs of the group, but it was the additional support of Derbyshire Freemasons that saw over £40,000 of awards from the Masonic Charitable Foundation and the Mark Benevolent Fund that delivered two more motorcycles and another car to the DBB fleet, with funding made available for a secure store at Chesterfield Hospital.
Having established a 24/7 service to two major hospitals, delivering to over 75 local, regional and national locations covering well over 50,000 miles, the challenges will undoubtedly continue.
2018 saw another significant increase in demand as well as the introduction of a new service to the hospital pharmacy, delivering directly to patients in the community either at home or in local community care facilities.
To continue the journey, we will need to secure further funding streams and most importantly, develop new volunteers, not just riders, but drivers and fundraisers too!
Our aim will continue to reflect that early vision ‘to help save lives and the NHS money‘, but we will develop our aspiration to become an embedded part of the Derbyshire NHS transport infrastructure.