Those of you who are Facebook friends may have noticed a few posts about blood biking in recent weeks and there is of course a reason….
This was something I was heavily involved with back in the 1980’s being a member of the North East Thames Emergency Voluntary Service (EVS), who supplied an overnight courier service for hospitals in North and East London carrying samples, whole blood or anything that a hospital needed moving urgently and couldn’t wait for NHS transport to resume in the morning.
Even back then it was not a new concept as it had started in 1962 when Margaret Ryerson and her husband formed the Emergency Volunteer Service (EVS) in Surrey. In 1969 this was followed by the Freewheelers youth community action group in Stevenage which initially served hospitals in Stevenage, Luton, Dunstable, Bedford and Hitchin. These original groups are no longer operating, but they inspired other groups to provide similar services.
The third group, which still operates today, was the Yeovil Freewheelers, founded in 1978. And in 1981, SERV in South West London and Surrey and the NE Thames Emergency Voluntary Service (also known as the EVS) were founded. This latter group was the one I was a member of and indeed was a committee member for a few years. The EVS sadly disbanded in 1999 but SERV continues to this day and now operates as a number of different groups. Other groups followed, and currently there are 34 different groups operating in the UK and 5 in the Irish Republic.
Blood bikes is the informal name for these emergency medical services, who provide voluntary motorcycle courier services to hospitals and other healthcare providers, to help with the transport of urgent blood, tissue and organs. They generally operate overnight at weekends and on bank holidays.
So what’s this got to do with me?
Since my move to Milton Keynes I have cut back on my previous volunteering activities, I stood down as Chairman of Hertfordshire 4x4 Response at the AGM in March and I ended my eight year stint as a Trustee of 4x4 Response UK in October.
I also resigned my position as a member of the Hertfordshire Local Access Forum as I no longer live or worked in the County and recently decided to resign from the National Escort Group GB (NEG GB) as my career as a motorcycle marshal for cycling events seemed to be a non-starter. I only did one event in 2015 after they “lost” my email address and the same seems to have occurred this year as I haven’t been allocated a single event and to be honest can’t be bothered to chase them anymore.
So as one of life’s inveterate volunteers (you might have worked that out from the above), I started to look around for something to fulfil my needs. This also coincided with Grainne's promotion, which means she'll be working shifts again so I'll need something to keep me out of mischief when she has to work weekends. I was out on a ride with Grainne shortly after she got her bike this summer when we were passed by a liveried blood bike from SERV OBN (Oxon, Berks, Bucks and Northants). A few days later and I saw another out and about in Milton Keynes, so started investigating.
The upshot was I applied and was accepted to join SERV OBN and last weekend started my training, learning the “northern routes” on our patch. More training will follow in January and then I have an assessment ride before being allowed to go operational. Just like in the '80s I will only be volunteering at weekends so as not to interfere with work.
A lot hasn’t changed from my experiences back in the eighties but there is a lot of new stuff too. The most obvious being the use of liveried fleet bikes rather than using our own vehicles and riders to have an advanced qualification (so good job I passed my IAM Advanced Test in 2011). The bikes are equipped with blue lights and sirens but at the current time these are not used by SERV (it’s a complicated story) but this may change if Sect 19 of the Road Safety Act 2006 is ever enacted, so the bikes are specified with them.
This week the BBC ran a good article on the Nationwide Association of Blood Bikers: