Advanced Riding Skills in Action

Derbyshire Blood Bikes – Proudly Supported by Matlock IAM Group Members

Derbyshire Blood Bikes (DBB) is a charity set up just a few years ago to provide a ‘free‘ medical sample transport service to our local NHS organisations.  The remit is simple: provide a secure and reliable transport service for medical samples to and from NHS facilities within Derbyshire and the wider NHS organisation on demand.The DBB website has the following description:

“Derbyshire Blood Bikes is a non profit registered charity that provides a service to our NHS, transporting lifesaving medical items for hospitals in our region; we carry blood, urgent samples & medications. We also transport donated breast milk into the national milk bank supply chain, this is used to support feeding of premature or seriously ill babies. Indeed, if we can carry it safely ….. We will transport it.”

In practice this means collecting samples from NHS facilities such as the patient Walkin-Centre on Osmaston Road, Derby and transporting them to the Pathology Dept at Royal Derby Hospital (RDH); or carrying samples between the RDH and Royal Hospitals at Chesterfield and/or Sheffield.  There have been occasional requests to transport samples to path labs further afield (Leeds, Birmingham, London).  The service also extends to transporting donated breast milk to the Women‘s and Children‘s Hospital in Birmingham.

DBB riders must hold an advanced motorcycle qualification (IAM or RoSPA test pass), this ensures the standard of riding is commensurate with the safe and efficient transport of samples that could be critical to patients‘ wellbeing.

The charity has a small fleet of motorcycles (a mix of BMW F800s; Honda NTV 700, ST1100 and ST1300) and two cars (a 4WD Rav 4 and a Citroen C1 – the cars are used only in adverse ice/snow conditions).The DBB service operates on a 24/7 basis, the 30+ volunteer riders giving whatever time they can spare, to fit in with their other commitments and personal circumstances – all support at whatever level is welcomed.  In addition, riders and non-rider volunteers provide essential admin support for rider rota management and motorcycle fleet maintenance, and for committee duties, and fundraising drives.

Fundraising is an essential activity that‘s necessary to keep the motorcycle fleet on the road – DBB is after all a charity and receives no funding from any other sources.  Activities are ongoing throughout the year and include attendance at various public events, usually with a bike, two or three rider volunteers and publicity material for handing out to members of the public. Occasionally we get invited to support higher profile events like escorting BBC‘s Matt Baker through our region when he was involved in the Children In Need rickshaw challenge.

DBB Riders including IAM Matlock Group member Martin Harper (on the right) shown here supporting the Children in Need Rickshaw Challenge with BBC’s Matt Baker

DBB Volunteers Fundraising at the Classic Vehicle Day in Heanor April 2017 – IAM Matlock Group Observer Tony Eyre displayed some of his Vintage motorcycle collection (aided by Mrs Eyre – in discussion just behind the Aston Martin)

Patient samples are carried in a sealed thermal bag in a special box attached to the back of the bike (see picture below).  Sample batches are logged and signed for by the despatching/receiving NHS staff and the assigned DBB rider at each end of the journey to ensure absolute accountability.

During 2017 DBB achieved the following:-  close to 20% increase in requests for service.-  around 15% increase in the mileage covered by the fleet.-  deliveries to 73 different locations.-  over 60% of journeys made to locations outside the county.

DBB Chair Bob Whitmore shown here receiving a very generous donation from the Scouts – made possible by their Stamp and Deliver Campaign.  The sample transport boxes can also be clearly seen on the rear of the bikes (Honda NTV 700 Deauville on the left and Honda Pan European on the right).

Just a few facts and figures:DBB riders do not operate under “blue lights‘ – there is no need and they are not an emergency response service.Strict observance of rules of the road and courtesy is expected from all riders. The average cost of operating a motorcycle for a year is £2000.There were 894 calls on the service. 260 weekend scheduled runs; 622 requested runs (an increase of 105 or 19.5% of requests from 2016) were completed. There were 12 (1.9%) calls for service that could not be responded to due to concurrent demands.

Most of the journeys were to destinations out of county. The mileage with consignments on-board (including the return journey) was almost 52,000 miles, an increase of 15% on 2016. Sheffield was the most frequent location with samples taken to NHSBT, Hallamshire, Northern General and the Children‘s Hospitals.

DBB delivered to 73 locations, 39 being within Derbyshire and the rest being as far as Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Bristol, London and Norwich.

And finally, as one of the DBB volunteer riders I can say that collecting and delivering samples efficiently and safely is not glamorous or exciting, but it is rewarding.  For me it‘s knowing there‘s the possibility that one of the samples I have just delivered to the lab might be critical to a patient‘s care, and may be life-changing for them, as well as helping reduce the taxi fare cost burden on the NHS.  When it‘s cold, wet, dark and you‘re a long way from home, reminding myself why I‘m doing it is what keeps me going.

Tony Eyre – IAM Matlock Group National Observer (M/C) and Derbyshire Blood Bike Volunteer Rider