In the United Kingdom and Ireland, a network of largely independent registered charities, whose members are all unpaid volunteers, provide blood bike courier services in collaboration with their local healthcare authorities. Many are represented through the Nationwide Association of Blood Bikes (NABB).
Commercially-run blood bike courier services also exist.
The first blood bike volunteer group to be established was the Emergency Volunteer Service (EVS), formed in 1962 in Surrey, England, by Margaret Ryerson and her husband. In 1969, the Freewheelers youth community action group formed in Stevenage which initially served hospitals in Stevenage, Luton, Dunstable, Bedford and Hitchin. These original groups are no longer operating, but other groups emerged that provide similar services.
Yeovil Freewheelers was founded in 1978. In 1981, SERV, which formed shortly after the original EVS disbanded, and the North East Thames Region Emergency Voluntary Service (also known as the EVS) in north east London, were founded. North East Thames Region EVS disbanded in November 1998, but SERV continues to operate as a number of different groups.
The Nationwide Association of Blood Bikes was established in 2008 to promote professional standards across all the member blood bike groups.
As an example of the scale of their operations, in 2010, one group made 2,500 deliveries at a cost of around £25,000, paid for by charitable donations, which according to NABB saved the NHS over £120,000. There are no exact figures for how much blood bikes save the NHS annually, however NABB estimates that it was approximately £1.4 million in 2016.
In the August 2018 Budget, the government introduced Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) exemption for blood bikes vehicles, effective from April 2020, "to align the tax treatment of the transportation of blood and medical supplies by the national charity Blood Bikes with other emergency vehicles".
In 2019, Warwickshire and Solihull Blood Bikes, which started in 2012, was told that University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust was dispensing with its services, and would be replaced by a commercial contract with QE Facilities, a subsidiary company of Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust.
Blood bike groups
There are a number of blood bike groups operating in the UK and Ireland. These include:
- Freewheelers EVS – Bath, Bristol, Gloucestershire (south), Somerset, West Wiltshire
- Nottinghamshire Blood Bikes – Nottinghamshire
- SERV – various areas
- Severn Freewheelers – Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Wiltshire, Worcestershire
- Whiteknights Yorkshire Blood Bikes – Yorkshire
Several groups have received The Queen's Award for Voluntary Service:
- 2008 – Freewheelers EVS
- 2016 – North West Blood Bikes Lancashire & Lakes
- 2017 – Northumbria Blood Bikes
- 2017 – SERV Sussex
- 2018 – Dumfries & Galloway Blood Bikes
- 2018 – Shropshire, Staffordshire and Cheshire Blood Bikes
- 2019 – SERV Suffolk & Cambridgeshire
- 2019 – Merseyside & Cheshire Blood Bikes
Blood Bike Awareness Day
The first Blood Bike Awareness Day took place on Friday 14 August 2015, with initial support provided by O2 and has continued annually since. It is to be held on the Friday closest to 14 August. Reasons for this include it being the mirror to 14 February and St Valentine's day with its association with the heart and thus blood, being summer the news cycle is often devoid of political stories and there is a greater propensity for journalists to fill airtime with such awareness days also compounded by Fridays being shown even more inclined to cover such local news topics.
Motorcyclists are classified as vulnerable road users as when the casualty and fatality numbers are adjusted to passenger miles covered it is the most dangerous form of transport when compared to walking, cycling and various four wheeled vehicles. With the annual miles covered collectively by all the blood bike charities and the added dangers of journeys at night and in adverse weather, despite advanced rider training, there have been accidents, some of which have been fatal.
On 5 May 2018, Russell Curwen of North West Blood Bikes was killed while on duty in a traffic collision. In 2019, a laboratory in Morecambe run by University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust was named in Curwen's memory.
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- Nationwide Association of Blood Bikes, the umbrella charity representing blood bikes in the United Kingdom