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North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust - 70 years of the NHS


Home > News > Lives saved daily in north Cumbria thanks to Blood Bikes volunteer service

Lives saved daily in north Cumbria thanks to Blood Bikes volunteer service

Posted on Wednesday 13th August 2014
blood bikes

Photo caption: L-R: John Sutton (blood transfusion team manager), Bill Bertham (Blood Bikes Cumbria). Alan Bragg (Blood Bikes Cumbria) and Steve Hurd (haematology team manager)

A lifesaving motorbike volunteer scheme providing free out of hours transport for blood samples between hospitals in Carlisle and Whitehaven has been launched thanks to a £3,600 donation from charitable funds at North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust.

The driving force behind the ‘Blood Bikes’ launch in north Cumbria is retired airline manager Bill Bertham from Carlisle whose wife was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a form of blood cancer. She is now in remission.

Bill said: “My wife discovered a lump in her neck in 2011 which, after tests, was diagnosed as non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

“She still goes for regular check-ups at Cumberland Infirmary and I wanted to show my appreciation of the valuable work they do.

“I have been a motorcycle enthusiast for many years setting up Blood Bikes Cumbria and South West Scotland seemed perfect.

“I’m delighted that this new service has already been supported by the Trust with such a generous cash gift from its Leukaemia charitable fund.

Distances between West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven, Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle and laboratories in Newcastle mean that the delivery of samples and supplies at short notice can sometimes only be done with the use of taxis.

But now thanks to the newly registered charity Blood Bikes Cumbria and South West Scotland hospitals will benefit from an entirely free professional medical courier service. Money that would’ve been spent on using taxis can now be diverted in to patient care and other key NHS frontline services.

The partnership also ensures that money that the Trust would have had to spend on couriers and taxis to transport the samples out of hours and at weekends can be reinvested directly in patient care.   .

Bill said: “I am immensely proud that following some research in April this year into setting it up we have been able to launch an out of hours service between 6pm and 6am and all day at weekends and bank holidays in just two months.

“The response I’ve had from bikers only too willing to provide their skills, time and equipment in the provision of this fantastic service and all the volunteers has been extremely gratifying and we will be launching the service in south west Scotland shortly.”

Bill has over 30 bikers who have responded to his call to action but providing this service means more than just turning up and riding. All registered Blood Bike riders have to go through a rigorous training programme resulting in an accreditation before they are allowed to ride for the service.

“We are always looking for experienced riders to offer their time and skills because what we’re finding is that as the hospitals understand what we can deliver, there is greater demand.”

As well as the more obvious need for blood in theatre for transfusions during operations, diagnosis of life threatening conditions such as leukaemia, haemophilia and meningitis rely on the timely and safe delivery of blood, spinal fluid and test kits to hospital laboratories, work that is critical to patients care. There is even scope for donated breast milk being delivered to hospital baby units.

Steve Hurd haematology team manager at North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust said:

“When I found out about what Bill was planning for north Cumbria I offered my wholehearted support because I knew about how successful the Blood Bikes service has been in other parts of the country.

“We get an accredited level of service, blood and other samples handled with clinical precision and delivered between our hospitals in a timely fashion at short notice regardless of the unsociable hours – and it is completely free.”

Blood Bikes Cumbria and South West Scotland will have registered charity status and is affiliated to the Nationwide Association of Blood Bikes.