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A six-month pilot with a charitable organisation, which was initially intended as an out of hours service transporting lab samples, has risen to the challenges that Covid-19 has presented.
Initially intended to be trialled as a service to deliver urgent samples and supplies between hospitals, Highlands and Islands Blood Bikes (HIABB) have responded to 480 calls and clocked up more than 92,000 miles in the last six months.
The group’s response and assistance during the pandemic has been fantastic and hugely appreciated by NHS Highland.
Alex Javed, service manager for laboratories with NHS Highland said: ‘When the pandemic was declared many of us found that we had to change both how we worked and what we did in response to what was needed and the same can be said for the volunteers with Blood Bikes.
‘They quickly were able to start distributing test kits and returning samples to the labs for us, often with not much notice. No ask is too big for them; they have been so valuable to us during this time.
‘Prior to their involvement we would be seeing an average spend of about £5,000 a month on taxis to get urgent samples and/or tests between sites, and Blood Bikes have been doing this free.’
The pilot has been so successful NHS Highland is now moving to have a service level agreement in place with the charity so it can continue to work alongside the health board in providing the service.
Ross Sharp, Highland and Islands Blood Bikes president, said: ‘We are a small charity and we were just getting started when the pandemic hit.
‘Fortunately we were able to change the delivery of our service quickly in response to the pandemic and we are absolutely delighted that our relationship with the NHS is to continue.
‘Donations and volunteers are what keep us going, and fundraising in particular has been very difficult for us but we continue to respond when the NHS asks and we hope to do so for the foreseeable future.
‘It’s not just riders that are involved and I’d ask anyone who has any free time and wants to give something back to the community to have a look at our website www.haibloodbikes.co.uk or find us on Facebook where you can find out about all the different roles needed; there is a role for everyone.
‘You can also make donations to us, and we are particularly keen to speak to potential sponsors.’
Mr Sharp added: ‘We pride ourselves on being there when the NHS asks, and in doing so this helps the NHS provide a better service to the community, for which we are all grateful.’
Caption: HAIBB President Ross Sharp on one of the Blood Bikes.