Warwickshire and Solihull Blood Bikes (WSBB) are once again delivering life-saving samples to hospitals across the midlands, after losing their transport contract to a private company late last year.
The charitable organisation had delivered its last supplies of blood to the University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire (UHCW) NHS trust on April 3 of this year, after a paid deal was awarded to QE Facilities last November.
Delivering samples since July 2012, the move saw the group lose around 80% of their work overnight, however after a successful campaign, they restarted their out of hours courier service on Monday, July 1.
Operating between 7pm and 6am, all year round, the 110-strong volunteer group will be working closely with the Coventry and Warwickshire Pathology Service, which is overseen by the UHCW.
This service provides care for 1.6 million patients across four hospitals, nine clinical commissioning groups and over 250 GP practices. Around 10 million samples were handled by them between 2018 and 2019 alone.
"There are two main reasons for our existence. The first one is to save the NHS money and the second is to contribute to saving peoples' lives," WSBB’s Hospital Liaison Officer, Martin Williams, told MCN.
"That’s the whole purpose of what we do and, over time, we’ve done over 7000 calls. That represents a massive saving to the NHS."
These comments were added to by Chief Operating Officer at UHCW, Lisa Kelly, who said: "The transport of samples is vital to our work and the blood bikers offer a dedicated, professional service.
"These kind volunteers, who give up their time free of charge, make a real difference to the people of Coventry and Warwickshire and local communities.
"We are delighted to continue working in partnership with WSBB. Our aim is to ensure the Pathology Service continues to go from strength to strength and helps to further enhance the patient experience."
Chairman of WSBB, Mark Lavery, added: "It is with great pleasure that the blood bikers can once again do what we do best and help save University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust money with our free out of hours service totally run by volunteers and funded by kind donations from the public."
Blood bikers snubbed for private contractors
First published: 10.04.2019.
By Jordan Gibbons
Warwickshire and Solihull Blood Bikes are facing closure after an NHS Trust has replaced their free service with a transport contract to a private company. The deal awarded to QE Facilities, estimated to be worth £14 million, covers the same geographical area as WSBB’s services, effectively rendering them redundant.
WSBB Hospital Liaison Officer Martin Williams told MCN that the group was "Saddened and disappointed" by the trust’s decision.
"Since we started in 2012, we’ve transported over 7000 samples saving the NHS nearly £700,000. More frustrating still is that QE’s contract began in October 2018 so we’ve been making deliveries voluntarily for nearly six months while they’ve been paid.
"We’ve got hundreds of volunteers that give up their time because they enjoy riding their bikes and want to save lives. We’re still committed to working with the Air Ambulance but this decision may make that more difficult. We’re hoping to continue by doing milk runs, relay runs and offering help to out-of-hours GP surgeries."
Responding, a University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS trust spokesman said: "The Coventry and Warwickshire Pathology Service (CWPS) serves 1.6 million patients, four acute hospitals, nine Clinical Commissioning Groups and more than 250 GP practices. The transport service was previously delivered by a wide range of suppliers, with some contracted through CWPS and others through third party organisations.
"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.
"In line with public sector procurement regulations, we went out to open tender and supplier days, which were held to inform organisations of our requirements."
The Trust says they offered to continue working with WSBB until June but WSBB opted to withdraw the service from April 1. The Trust also said that WSBB transported 1000 samples a year – just 0.01% of the total received by CWPS.
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