A group of fast growing blood bikes in Devon sets big plans for the future

The new, fast growing South West Blood Bikes (SWBB) charity has revealed that it aims to be able to provide its free service to all parts of Devon.

Last week it was announced that the Plymouth-based charity had taken over a hospital contract with the North Devon District Hospital after expanding in the area.

It is now also present in Torbay and hopes to be able to serve Exeter and East Devon in the near future as well, provided it can raise funds to expand its fleet.

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His overall ambition is to provide a service all over Devon, but at the moment his commitment remains only to take over the work that he can guarantee to perform.

SWBB’s mission is to provide the NHS and medical facilities with free after-hours emergency messaging service using their motorcycles and cars.

The association is run entirely by volunteers and no one is paid for the work they do.

South West Blood Bikes Volunteers

Last year he became the official member of the Nationwide Association of Blood Bikes for Devon. Each county has a group that holds the position.

SWBB Chairman Mark Bentley said: “The name Blood Bikes is a misnomer. or whatever is urgently needed to improve patient outcomes or save their life.

“Anything that needs to be moved urgently by the NHS we will do by bike, car or van.

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“During the pandemic, we helped move Covid samples and issue pharmacy prescriptions to people who were protecting or could not retrieve their medication. We are also working for St Luke’s Hospice.

“We grew up very quickly, actually a lot more than we would like. We had planned to grow at a fixed rate, but this has accelerated quickly due to the number of requests we receive from outside of those we already serve.

“We’re only scratching the surface of the work available to us. What holds us back is funding. We don’t get any government funding; it’s all done through fundraising.

“We have a very clear commitment not to accept work for a service user unless we are 100% sure that we have the people and resources in place to do so. In this line of work, you can’t let people down, and a patient could die if you did. “

South West Blood Bike chairman Mark Bentley, left, when he took over from charity founder Michael Freeman
South West Blood Bike chairman Mark Bentley, left, when he took over from charity founder Michael Freeman

The charity was founded in 2018 by Plymouth businessman Michael Freeman, along with two friends, all of whom were blood bikers.

Due to professional commitments, Michael has since had to step down from the management of the association, but remains one of its directors and an active runner.

The charity started operating with its first contracts in May 2019 and currently performs around 30 jobs per week. Its coverage expanded to Torbay in early 2020, and it has also been operating in North Devon for two months.

SWWB is operational Monday to Friday from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m., and 24 hours a day on weekends, and is available 24 hours a day on public holidays.

He currently owns a fleet of six bikes, two cars and a van, the latter having recently been donated by another group of blood bikes in London.

The association has 31 volunteers, most of them bikers, and has a waiting list of bikers willing to offer their services when its fleet grows.

Bikers come from all walks of life, from farmers to Ministry of Defense workers, and are all Institute of Advanced Motorist or ROSPA Advanced bikers.

He is currently looking to recruit controllers who work from home and send runners to work and follow them for their safety.

Southwestern Blood Bikes

President Mark, an avid rider who also works full time in a health role, was the first rider to be hired as a volunteer for SWBB.

He said: “It combines my two loves of going out and riding a motorcycle and doing something good for the community. It is definitely more enjoyable in the summer than in the winter.

“You get a real sense of satisfaction to come out and help the NHS which is close to my heart.

“What we are not is a routine courier operation because the NHS has contractors who do it. But since they only work a few hours a day, we step in to provide an after-hours service. evenings and weekends. “

“Our main job is at night. We have two cyclists on duty in Plymouth and two in North Devon. One evening last week we had two bikes until 3am and they rode about 600 miles. between them.

“We aspire to have new bikes next year, but we need to have the funds to do it. A new bike with all the extra accessories it needs costs around £ 11,000.”

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Not only did the charity become busier during the Covid pandemic, but at the same time, it received a drop in its donations due to long periods of inability to organize charity events or collections.

Now that many people no longer carry cash with them, this has had a huge impact on their bucket collections as well.

This weekend, one of his riders, Mark Anstis, is embarking on a Blisters 4 Blood Bike fundraiser, a charity walk that will allow him to retrace on foot the route of the association’s Blood Bikes, which provided of services in Plymouth on November 18. The total distance is 22 miles which he will complete on Saturday November 27th.

To donate to fundraising please click here.

For more information on SWBB, visit www.swbb.org.uk and donate to the association please click here.

More Devon Live stories:

Maria R. Newman