Blood Bikes volunteers replaced by company in £14 million deal
The Warwickshire and Solihull group of the National Association of Blood Bikes, a charity which sees volunteers across the UK provide free out-of-hours medical transport and delivery in support of the National Health Service, has been replaced by a limited company.
University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire (UHCW) NHS Trust ended the long-standing arrangement between the Coventry and Warwickshire Pathology Service and the Warwickshire and Solihull Blood Bikes (WSBB) on April 1 2019. The service previously offered by the WSBB’s volunteers, who have responded to 7,000 callouts since it was founded in 2012, will now be carried out by QE Facilities Ltd as part of a new £14 million contract.
In a public statement, Chairman of WSBB Mark Lavery said: “All our unpaid volunteers are shocked at the decision. We have committed significant time and effort to grow the group where public donations have enabled us to invest in five vehicles to maintain service in all weathers, 365 days a year. All that is now in jeopardy.”
When contacted by the BMF, a UHCW NHS Trust spokesman said in a statement that: “With complexities increasing and the service potentially expanding to cover areas such as Hereford and Worcester, a decision was made to standardise delivery to ensure current and future needs, as well as stringent UK accreditation requirements, are met and exceeded.”
QE Facilities Ltd is a subsidiary of Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust and is wholly owned by it. The statement from the UHCW NHS Trust also confirmed that “Any profit generated is reinvested in health care, not transferred to independent shareholders. Our aim now is to ensure the service continues to go from strength to strength and helps to further enhance the patient experience.”
The WSBB also supports the local Air Ambulance by assisting with the supply of blood for use in trauma situations and Mr Lavery’s statement expressed the hope that the charity could “somehow continue this valuable work.” The future of another service provided by the charity, the collection of donor milk for premature babies, is also currently unclear.
UPDATE, 8/4/2019: Amid ongoing public outcry, a petition has been set up on Change.org calling for "discussion with regards to why this decision to outsource the service was made".
UPDATE, 10/4/2019: The petition on Change.org has received more than 10,000 signatures, meaning it will receive a response from the government. If it goes on to receive 100,000 signatures, it will be considered for debate in Parliament as well.
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BMF Motorcycle Rider interviewed Blood Bike rider Colette Falloon, who began volunteering with the charity in memory of her brother Marcel, to find out more about the charity and the valuable services it provides the NHS. You can read the feature here.