The coming of the season of autumn can often be a mixed bag when it comes to the weather, but thankfully, it was a warm, although very windy evening, with the light slowly fading as the journey began to meet with Roy Williams, a volunteer for the Northwest Blood Bikes Lancashire and Lakes.
Arriving at Ormskirk Fire Station for the pre-arranged meet at 7pm, Roy had already been called to Ormskirk Hospital to pick up some urgent blood samples, and so with those on-board, Roy travelled past the fire station and signalled to follow and so it was with a quick hello, we were both off riding on our motorbikes through the early evening traffic on the road to Southport Hospital pathology department.
Roy was riding the fully liveried BMW 1250RS Blood Bike with the retro-reflective panels highly visible in the low light as he expertly and safely navigated through the traffic. We were soon at Southport and having unpacked from the bike the sealed red container, Roy handed that over to the staff waiting, and was asked to wait whilst another package was prepared.
Whilst we were waiting, Roy explained this was a typical evening with the Blood Bikes, and that we would almost certainly be travelling direct to Whiston Hospital soon with further samples. By now the light had faded fully and a slight raining mist had descended, Roy was handed another sealed red container, which once he had secured to the bike and covered with its bright yellow reflective cover marked ‘Blood’, it was time to get back on the road and travel to Whiston Hospital as Roy had predicted.
Having dropped off the packages it was then time to return to base at Ormskirk. With a quick petrol stop at Rainford to fill the bike up for the next shift. Roy explained that he would put the fleet bike back in the secure garage and Roy then swapped bikes for his own motorcycle. We were soon back in the hospital waiting area, and it was time for a well-deserved cup of tea with which Roy kindly provided some chocolate, and we could then talk about Roy and the work that he does for the Blood Bikes.
Roy is the current master of Harmonic Lodge No 216, having been in the chair since February 2023, he has been volunteering for the Blood Bikes for five years now. He applied to join the Blood Bikes, having observed another blood biker on the road, which piqued his interest. A quick google and Roy discovered the extraordinary work that the blood bikers do; they provide a totally free, professional voluntary service, out of normal hours for the transportation of urgent and emergency Items. Those could be blood, platelets, samples, donor breast milk or anything that could be carried by a motorcycle, quickly and safely to where it needs to go.
After contacting the organisation, Roy completed his training and after he was assessed by the fleet controller, a nerve-wracking experience Roy remembered, he was passed to ride a Blood Bike. Roy said that the first time he rode the fully liveried bike he was ‘terrified’ but soon got used to the bike, and from the experience of following Roy, he has fully mastered the bike and rides superbly.
Roy explained that the minimum commitment is to complete two shifts a month, Monday to Friday 7pm to 2 am with each shift lasting five hours. Weekends and bank holidays which are voluntary are arranged in 12-hour shifts. Roy works in the offshore industry and on his time back home, he likes to complete as many shifts as he can, personal commitments notwithstanding. The Blood Bike organisation is always looking for volunteer riders, controllers who manage the shifts, car drivers, especially when the weather is cold as samples can’t be transported by motorcycle in temperatures below -2oC as they may freeze, and anyone with fundraising experience. They can be contacted on any of the Blood Bike regional websites volunteer pages: This also helps to explain why Roy said his favourite piece of bike kit he has, is a heated inner jacket which no doubt keeps him warm on those dark winter nights.
The total jobs completed by the Northwest Blood Bikes Lancashire and Lakes so far on the website is currently 9317 which covers the five geographical areas from Kendal in the north to Ormskirk in the south, that would otherwise have had to be paid for by the NHS by taxi service, so not only is it an invaluable service it also saves the NHS valuable money. The jobs that the Blood Bikes are asked to complete can involve some distance and the assistance of other regions, with it not being unusual to transfer items from one blood bike to another if it is required much further afield, often meeting at motorway services to complete the transfer. Roy said the furthest he had ridden over a single shift was 300 miles.
Whilst we were discussing the amazing work that Roy contributes to, the controller advised Roy that an urgent job was on the way, and this was confirmed by the hospital porter who by now had approached us to say that an urgent sample needed to be delivered to Southport Hospital. The teas were quickly finished, and having collected the samples the bikes were fired up and we rode off into the midnight hour on our way.
Having journeyed through the roads between Ormskirk and Southport, the roads were by now eerily quiet and we made good progress to the hospital, were once again, Roy was advised that another package was being prepared, another red box was handed over, secured, and on its way to the final journey of the shift to Whiston Hospital.
At Whiston the final package was delivered marking the end of the shift, it had been a remarkable insight into the work of the blood bikers, and the amazing contribution that Roy personally makes to the organisation. The last word being left to Roy, who said: “Although we may never meet the recipient of blood which had been transported, we hope that in some way we have helped that person, perhaps even saved a life which makes it all worth it.” Inspiring words and a fitting tribute to the work of this wonderful organisation.
There are various initiatives in both the Liverpool and Gladstone Groups to raise funds for a new blood bike, which Roy hopes we can all wholeheartedly support, and hopefully this article describes why these fundraising appeals are so important.
Article by Mike Fox.