The unsung motorcycle blood courier heroes
All about the volunteers who transport vital blood and milk supplies to UK hospitals
A lot of organisations, coast guards and mountain rescue teams among them, have been referred to as the ‘fourth emergency service’ over the years. And perhaps we should apply the same term to an organisation called SERV.
The men and women who work for SERV wear high-visibility jackets, ride police motorbikes and transport emergency medical supplies such as blood, samples and vaccines to hospitals at a time when most of us are safely tucked up in bed.
It is work with strict time deadlines and is performed at such unsociable times that you would expect these medical couriers to receive pay which reflects the importance of their job.
Yet these midnight motorcycle men and women are dedicated volunteers who receive no pay in return for all the skill they display in doing the job.
Look closely at their jackets and you will see the logo of SERV (Service by Emergency Rider Volunteers); a charity which is based in Guildford and supports the NHS in 15 counties.
As the couriers’ cargo is so precious – it can also include plasma and vital patient notes – road safety is an issue which SERV takes very seriously; it wants all its riders to have advanced motorcycle training. Generous donations from breakdown cover provider GEM mean that this ambition could soon be realised.
As SERV’s fuel costs can, in a busy week, top £500 they are grateful for any financial assistance which comes their way.
A donation, however small, is money well-spent as SERV helps save lives and gets vital packages from one location to the other quickly and safely.
Riders who are accepted for the service follow pre-determined routes and let controllers (also volunteers) know their estimated time of arrival so that supplies can swiftly be made use of.
Sometimes riders, who drive new or ex-police model motorbikes, will get no call-out in an evening. But this scenario is becoming less and less common as the service is being used more and more.
In fact you could say that SERV’s ‘business’ has expanded as the motorcycle couriers have diversified to become milk men (and women) delivering breast milk to hospital doorsteps in order to protect the health of premature babies.
The sight of the couriers is much welcomed at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital – a place which has had to turn down desperately-needed donations of breast milk in the past because it couldn’t afford to pay couriers (or taxi drivers) to ferry milk into the area.
Until SERV stepped in there was a very real prospect of John Radcliffe having to ration the baby milk – jeopardising the health of premature babies which are ten-times more likely to develop a bowel condition if they don’t receive human milk.
Without SERV, there was no way of milk being donated from outside the Oxfordshire region – it needs to arrive before it defrosts.
This meant that Gloucester mother Julie Page’s offer of donations would, in the past, have had to be rejected. Mrs Page told BBC Oxford that she started donating after her premature son Joseph benefitted from the service but what motivates the SERV riders to offer their help?
Norman Humphreys, a policeman who gives up his spare time to ride a SERV bike, told Meridian Tonight TV News : “Over the years I’ve seen lots of motorcyclists, policemen especially, who’ve been involved in accidents and needed the services of the NHS. I just wanted to say thank you to the NHS for all it provides by helping out.”
The late hours the SERV riders work might mean that you never see them on our roads. But it’s great to know they’re there.
GEM has decided to contribute towards the cost of the training of these dedicated volunteers. To make a direct donation to the GEM Motoring Assist Road Safety Charity please access our newly-created Just Giving donation page.