November WI Talk - Cornwall Blood Bikers

Wednesday 8th November 2017

Cornwall Blood Bikes

The story goes that a group of bikers were involved, late one night, in an accident that put one of their number in hospital and in need of an emergency blood transfusion. Unfortunately, the hospital did not have sufficient blood of the type needed and the NHS services that could have delivered some from another hospital do not operate at night, or any time at weekends.

Not surprisingly, the bikers got on their bikes and did the delivery themselves. Thanks to them, their friend survived the night and made a full recovery, but they were aware for the first time of a gap in NHS provision that could have serious implications for many other people.

Cornwall freewheelers, which changed its name in 2015 to Cornwall Blood Bikes, was set up to bridge this gap. They have at the moment seven bikes and one van, and with these they transport whole blood, pathology samples, medication, medical equipment, medical notes, frozen donated breast milk and even occasionally organs between NHS hospitals and hospices. They operate from 17.00 to 7.00 on weekdays and throughout the weekend, delivering things that cannot wait till tomorrow.

Geoff Crocker, speaking to Lerryn WI and their guests, spoke very simply but with obvious pride of the organisation of which he is a part – as a volunteer biker and also, more recently, helping with fundraising and speaking.

There are 80 members, 74 of them riders, all of them volunteers. There is also a team of co-ordinators and a team of fundraisers. Again, all are volunteers. There is no office; no employed staff. The co-ordinator who receives requests from the NHS and mobilises resources as necessary to ensure the need is met does it from her/his own home, on their own phone line.

There is no culture of generous expense allowances. Riders are supplied with the familiar high-vis jacket with ‘BLOOD’ on the back, together with a bag to hold the blood/samples and insulated containers for frozen materials. If they need anything else, they buy it themselves. If there is no available bike and they use their own vehicle to do a job, they can claim a modest mileage allowance for petrol costs. Generally, anybody who claims it does so in order to give the same amount as a donation – and add Gift Aid.

Everybody involved with the charity is aware of the need for money. Quite apart from the capital cost of purchasing bikes – second-hand ones, quite often – it costs £6000 to keep one bike on the road for one year. Funding bodies are becoming aware of the value of what the Blood Bikes accomplish, and a recent generous grant from the Masons bought them one new bike and two used ones, but the bikes do such very high mileages that they become too expensive to maintain when they get old, so the need to replace is a constant one. Last year they covered 90,000 miles doing 2000 jobs and saved the NHS at least £175,000.

Needless to say, our payment to Geoff for his fascinating talk went straight into the kitty.

Ann Henderson

Lerryn WI



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