Norfolk Blood Bikers have the ride stuff

Two of Norfolk Blood Bikes' machines, a BMW 800 and Yamaha 1300. Picture SERV Norfolk Blood Bikes.

Two of Norfolk Blood Bikes' machines, a BMW 800 and Yamaha 1300. Picture SERV Norfolk Blood Bikes. - Credit: Archant

We meet the volunteer Norfolk bikers on 24/7 duty ready to help the NHS

Dawn is breaking on a chill spring morning as a powerful motorcycle purrs into the grounds of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. The bike is liveried in fluorescent yellow and carries blue lights but it isn’t a police or paramedic’s machine.

The bike is part of the Norfolk Blood Bikes fleet and is at the hospital to play a key part in the fight against Covid-19. The rider collects a package of samples taken from patients and staff for testing, secures them on the bike and rides off to deliver them to the lab before most of us have stirred from our beds.

It’s a scene repeated at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn and the James

Paget at Gorleston day after day as the team of volunteer riders and drivers help take the strain in this global emergency.

Norfolk Blood Bikes is a charity which supports the NHS by providing safe transport of blood, plasma, platelets, samples, vaccines, donor breast milk and any other urgently required medical items to hospitals in Norfolk as well as to the East Anglian Air Ambulance, using experienced motorcyclists and drivers. The team relies entirely on donations to keep them on the road; they don’t charge the NHS.

“The last three weeks have gone absolutely mad,” says Norfolk Blood Bikes chairman Sean Moore. “We are now sending people to the hospitals at 5am to pick up Covid

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samples and transporting them for testing.”

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Usually the service is available in the evenings and 24/7 at weekends, but they have been asked to work around the clock during the current emergency.

“Within 10 minutes I can have a rider active and the team can be on the road heading towards whoever requires the service,” says Sean. He can call on a team of 82 riders and drivers, six controllers and a team of fund-raisers and administrators.

“We still have our normal night-time stuff that hospitals want transporting,” he says, “And we still have donor breast milk that still needs transporting.”

The team collects the donated milk from a centre in Hellesdon and ferries it to a regional milk bank hub, which allows sick and premature babies in neonatal intensive care units to receive it. Milk can also be supplied to mothers who have medical conditions which prevent them from breastfeeding, cannot breastfeed following a mastectomy, or who are undergoing chemotherapy treatment for cancer.

All this is going on as the charity, like most others, faces a funding emergency. It costs £4,000 a month to provide the service, a figure likely to rise to around £5,000 with round-the-clock cover.

The team can’t take on any more volunteers at the moment because they can’t be trained as most of the training goes on in hospitals. “People can help with donations,” says Sean. “People can donate to a specific vehicle

or they can donate for whatever they want.”

Anyone who would like to help the Norfolk Blood Bikes team – motto We’ll go no matter what – should go to norfolkbloodbikes