Mel Simmons, Porter

The National Association of Blood Bikes (NABB) is a charitable organisation established by local volunteers to deliver essential blood (and other urgent medical supplies) out of hours between hospitals and healthcare sites, covering almost all of the UK. The concept was founded by Margaret Ryerson and her husband in the early 60s. NABB was created in 2008, after there was a realisation that a UK-wide blood bike service, operating to professional standards, would be a great benefit to the NHS. Between 2008 and 2019, the number of active groups rose from five to over 40.

I am a volunteer motorcycle rider for Northumbria Blood Bikes. I started with the charity in 2016 and I am based at the RVI Newcastle. Due to my daily work pattern, I tend to do a Sunday morning once or twice a month.

I chose to apply for the role as a rider for the charity because I had seen the bikes at a fundraising event and got chatting to one of the riders. He gave me the information I needed to start the application process, which involved an induction meeting and Advanced Motorcycle Riders Course. The main reason for applying was in the year before I joined, I was admitted to hospital for a procedure. I thought by doing this, it would enable me to give a bit back to help the NHS.

A day in the life of a Blood Biker can be quite hectic as we do 12hr shifts, with normally two bikes and one car. You can deliver blood, specimens, documents or small medical equipment to different hospitals, care homes and GP surgeries around the region. If the item is too big, we have cars to carry them. Our group covers the area from Berwick down to Darlington, and if required, we are involved in relays with other groups. We also supply blood and plasma supplies to the GNAA service. Weather for a Blood Bike volunteer is not a problem, because as a biker you don’t mind getting wet and cold – it’s all part of the job. During the winter months, the bikes can transport blood at a minimum of 3 degrees, so anything below that is when cars or a 4×4 is used. Everything we do is absolutely cost free to the NHS, and the group is funded by public donations from fundraising events. You can volunteer as a rider, driver, shift radio controller or fundraiser – or all four!

The best thing about volunteering for Blood Bikes (other than riding the bikes) is recognition during a delivery or when you are grabbing a quick drink and bit of food before the next call. Sometimes, a total stranger will walk up to you, tap you on the shoulder or shake your hand and say thanks for everything you do. The Blood Bikers’ motto and reply to that is: “No Problem, It’s What We Do”.