This page has the answers to the questions we are most frequently asked about Northumbria Blood Bikes
What is Northumbria Blood Bikes (NBB)?
Northumbria Blood Bikes is a charitable organisation that transports blood, plasma, platelets, samples, vaccines and other urgently required medical items for our hospitals – every night, and at weekends and bank holidays completely free of charge.
Northumbria Blood Bikes is part of NABB the Nationwide Association of Blood Bikes.
Northumbria Blood Bikes is the organisation that carries out this work for hospitals in the North East of England. It is a registered charity (Charity number: 1166689)
Why do NBB use motorbikes rather than cars?
Motorbikes have advantages when it comes to transporting time sensitive items such as blood. It’s far easier for us to cut through traffic for example, so journey times are far more predictable and generally quicker than cars or vans. However, motorcycles cannot currently carry live blood when the temperature is below 3 degrees Celsius, so a blood car will be used. If you are interested in being a driver you can read more here.
What sort of motorcycles do you use?
NBB volunteers don’t ride their own bikes, they ride bikes owned by the charity. We currently operate a fleet consisting of Yamaha FJRs, Honda Pan European's, BMW R1250RT's & BMW F800's. These are mainly tourer type motorcycles designed to be ridden for extended periods and distances, that offer some protection from the worst of the weather and which have reasonable luggage capacity.
Our bikes have full high visibility markings in order to ensure they can be easily identified as ‘Blood Bikes’ and to help our riders and their precious cargo be seen, and stay safe.
Can I use my own vehicle?
No, only vehicles belonging to the charity may be used. It is worth noting that the fitting of emergency equipment (blue lights, sirens etc) to a volunteer’s personal vehicle is considered illegal by the DfT, ACPO and many Police forces. Northumbria Blood bikes does not in any way approve of, and will not support any rider / driver found or suspected to be engaged in this activity.
Where are the bikes kept?
Our riders will be ‘on call’ several times each month, and they take possession of the NBB bike, for the time that they are on call, so that they can respond immediately to a request for assistance. Riders who wish to work from home need to have a garage or other secure place to store the bike while at home on call. For riders without a garage, we have bikes based at ambulance stations which riders can work from while on shift.
Where are the cars kept?
Our drivers will be ‘on call’ several times each month through the winter months, and they take possession of the NBB car, for the time that they are on call, so that they can respond immediately to a request for assistance. Drivers need to use discretion as to where they base the car when at home in terms of distance from home, bearing in mind access to the car for duty calls and security of it. Where a rider is also a driver, it is anticipated that the car will be stored in a central location for use as necessary.
How do you transport blood etc?
Blood and blood products such as platelets are packed inside special insulated boxes and these are then secured to a special rack on the bike. The boxes are designed to maintain the temperature of the load during transportation. Our bikes also have panniers where samples can be transported along with non-temperature sensitive items such as instruments or documentation. When the temperature is too cold, a blood car willl be used.
What areas do you cover?
We currently cover hospitals and blood banks in Newcastle, Ashington, Whitley Bay, Gateshead, Hexam, South Shields, Washington, Sunderland, Durham, Bishop Aukland and Darlington. We now cover all NHS Acute Trusts in the North East. We also cover daily blood supply to the Great North Air Ambulance, 365 days a year.
Are there any qualifications required to be a rider volunteer?
Yes, all our riders are required to have held a full motorcycle licence for at least 2 years and hold a recognised advanced riding qualification (such as IAM, RoSPA, Police or one of our listed qualifications). If you want to ride for us but do not yet have a suitable qualification, we can put you in contact with one of the local advanced rider groups so you can gain the required qualification.
All riders are required to have an assessment ride on their own motorcycle with one of our Qualified Rider Assessors before being able to volunteer for shifts, and an annual assessment ride thereafter.
Are there any qualifications required to be a driver volunteer?
Yes, all our drivers are required to have held a full car licence for at least 2 years and hold a recognised advanced driving qualification (such as IAM, RoSPA, Police, Ambulance, Fire or one of our listed qualifications). If you want to drive for us but do not yet have a suitable qualification, we can put you in contact with one of the local advanced driving groups so you can gain the required qualification.
All riders are required to have an assessment drive in their own car with one of our Qualified Driver Assessors before being able to volunteer for shifts, and an annual assessment ride thereafter.
Why do Riders need to have an advanced qualification?
Image and reduce our insurance costs we require all our riders and drivers to have held a full licence for at least 2 years, be over 25 and hold an advanced qualification.
Do volunteers have to pay a membership fee?
We do not charge for membership, but are very grateful for any donations which volunteers or members or the public wish to make, however small. Donations can be made as one-off, or regular, payments through our fundraising partner site.
Do the riders / drivers have to have special training?
Yes, our riders / drivers receive training on the safe handling of all the items we carry and the procedures required. Riders / drivers undergo route training so they are familiar with the routes to and from our destinations.
If you are considering volunteering as a rider it’s also worth remembering that we operate our service 365 days a year and do most of our riding at night, sometimes in unpleasant weather. Therefore we look for experienced riders who stay ‘match fit’ by riding their own bikes regularly throughout the year. If you are someone who generally only rides on sunny Sundays, this probably isn’t the job for you.
Are right to work checks carried out on the Riders/Drivers?
Riders and drivers are required to provide evidence that they have a right to work in the UK before they can volunteer. A passport or (birth certificate & proof of National Insurance number) is all that is usually required. This check normally only needs to be carried out once.
Is there a uniform?
Riders must have their own protective motorcycle clothing such as boots, black trousers, jacket, gloves etc and are expected to use their own white helmet. A plain coloured helmet with no markings (stickers or decals) is acceptable until you renew your old one. We ask for a £20 deposit (returnable) for the High-Visibility jacket that we provide for you.
We ask that Drivers, Admin staff and Fundraisers wear black trouser/skirt and shoes along with an NBB shirt/polo shirt or jacket when representing the group. For operational Drivers, we ask that you purchase a NBB polo or 'business' shirt, and for a £20 deposit (returnable) for the black fleece jacket that we provide for you.
You can see examples of our uniforms on the uniforms page
How much time would I need to give?
For riders and drivers, we are looking for people who can volunteer for two 12 hour shifts a month. Riders are welcome to cover more shifts if they are able to. We appreciate everyone has different personal commitments with family\work etc and we have enough riders to cover short periods where you may not be able to volunteer (such as going on an extended holiday). We do however need riders who are committed and are going to share the load. Drivers will need to work more seasonal hours operationally, within the same operational hours, but throughout the year to transport to events.
For those volunteering to help out with fundraising we are happy to take whatever time you can give, even if it is just a couple of hours at an event in your area (such as a supermarket collection) every couple of months.
Do riders / drivers only work at night?
No we also have weekend day shifts. From Monday to Thursday we have 12 hour night shifts from 7:00 pm to 7:00 am. At weekends we cover from 7:00 pm Friday to 7:00 am Monday (or till Tuesday if it is a bank holiday). The weekend is split into 12 hour night shifts and day shifts.
Are there other ways people can volunteer to help apart from riding?
Yes, our team includes many people who are not riders. When the weather is particularly cold, we may use drivers for the blood car, or to attend events. We have people who help us with fundraising and publicity activities etc. Fundraising is a really important part of what we do as without the funds we wouldn't be able to keep running. If you have a talent or skill you think could be of benefit to us, or can spare a few hours a month to help us fundraise please let us know.
Do the volunteers receive any remuneration?
No, all of our volunteers, including the committee give their time for free.
Why do you do it?
Everyone has their different reasons, but volunteers will generally be strong supporters of the NHS. They may have a particular reason to be grateful to the NHS or feel that as motorcyclists they’d like to do something to help, just in case they themselves need help sometime in the future.
We know what we do ‘makes a difference’. It can help save lives and also saves our hospitals substantial sums of money, often tens of thousands of pounds, which can then be used to directly benefit patients. The opportunity to achieve this, by doing what we love – riding motorcycles, is a compelling mixture for NBB Volunteers.
Who are the volunteers?
It’s a wide variety and cross section of people from all walks of life. People like you.
How far will you travel on a call out?
Most of our journeys tend to be between our hospitals and the area’s central Blood Bank in Newcastle, so typically around 40 miles each trip. However, we can and do go further if necessary. Where we need to transfer items across the country, for example to deliver samples to London or Manchester for analysis, we generally liaise with blood bike groups in other areas to quickly relay our cargo to where it’s needed.
How can I help?
We provide our services to the hospitals for free, so we rely 100% on donations from the public, from charitable groups and on company sponsorship to fund our work. Financial donations and sponsorship are therefore always very welcome.
We are also grateful to companies who can donate or heavily discount the products or services we need to operate.
If you would like to find out more about our company sponsorship packages please contact Graham Moor via firstname.lastname@example.org
If you’d like to find out more about volunteering please contact us
If you would like to become a member please complete the online membership form