by Jill Boulton
Neil Powers is the Founder member and Chairman of North East Rider Volunteers Scotland (NERVs), the newest blood bike group in Scotland. Blood bikers are volunteers who deliver a variety of supplies to hospitals around the clock, saving the NHS thousands in transport costs.
Neil, why did you set up NERVs?
My main incentive for setting up our group was my wife, Kate. We have been together now for just over 12 years and married for four and a half of those years. During this time I have seen her endure the rigours of breast cancer and then a rare auto immune condition where her immune system attacks her muscles. Left uncontrolled by drugs, she wouldn’t be with us today. The NHS care Kate has had really hits home how understaffed and stretched the health service is and I wanted to try and give something back to them to try and ease their burden.
How has the group developed since you started it? You’ve got a good fleet of vehicles now.
We are going from strength to strength and through a lot of hard work by all of our members are developing into an amazing group of volunteers who, from the start of April 2018, will be providing a totally free of charge document and equipment transportation service to our local healthcare professionals in the Grampian region. We have one operational bike, a BMW R1200RTP, one event bike a K1200RS, and, most recently, a 2014 Ford Fiesta Sport van kindly donated by a local garage, Jim Reid Vehicle Sales of Kintore, Aberdeenshire.
How many people work for NERVs?
We currently have nearly 100 volunteers.
If I wanted to become a blood biker, what would I need to do?
If you wanted to volunteer to become a NERVs volunteer you can go to our website www.nervs.org.uk, and fill out the downloadable membership application form, or follow the instructions.
Do I need any qualifications?
This topic is one that is being discussed in great depth at the moment. As we are affiliated to the Nationwide Association of Blood Bikes (NABB) who require members to hold a current (less than three years old) Advanced qualification, then at the moment we are saying yes.
If you don’t hold one of the following qualifications then you will be required to move towards obtaining one to be able to ride the group’s liveried bikes.
Recognised advanced riding organisations may be one of the following: Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM RoadSmart); The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA); Police advanced riding certificate; Armed forces advanced riding certificate; Diamond advanced riding; DSA Enhanced Rider scheme, with ‘A’ grades across all modules.
Can I use my own bike?
At the moment no, we are trying to only use the group’s vehicles, although having said that we are looking at the options available to us.
Do I need to work at night?
The hours of operation currently sit at 18:00-22:00 Mon –Fri and 09:00 – 18:00 weekends and bank holidays.
Describe a typical day in the life of a blood biker…
When you are on call you don’t have to be sat right next to your phone waiting for it to ring, but you are expected to be ready to go as soon as is practical when a job comes in. What type of tasks you are asked to do depends on the client you are providing a service to.
How many hours would I need to be on call for?
We like to stay as flexible as possible with the rota and ask members to pre populate a spreadsheet a month in advance if possible. Basically the members give as much time to the group as they are able to, we don’t have a hard and fast rule on this.
Anything else I need to know?
Although we run NERVs pretty much as a business we are all volunteers and therefore are all on a level pegging i.e. a committee member is just the same as an ordinary volunteer.
Who pays for the fuel and the other costs? Is it expensive to run NERVs?
NERVs pays for all its running costs. Based on two bikes, we anticipate a ball park monthly figure of £2k per month.
How do you keep funds rolling in?
A lot of hard work and effort by our members looking for events to go to throughout the year and manning the stands at any we go to. NERVs is also always looking for a corporate sponsor to come on board so that we stand a better chance of hopefully receiving a regular amount annually, this would make it much easier for our budgeting requirements. Do you know anybody 😉
What drives you to do what you do? Is it satisfying?
Having a wife who has used many of her NHS credits, as indeed have I as you know, my whole incentive to make NERVs a success in Grampian is what the staff have given both of us over the years, which is a service badly affected by budget constraints, staff and equipment shortages. All we are trying to do is to enhance what the NHS already has at no cost at all, which hopefully will go some way to ease this burden. Yes it is very satisfying, from the actual inception date of the 24th August 2016 we have all put in an immense amount of time and effort to bring NERVs to operational readiness, yes the original idea to set up a Blood Bike group for the North East of Scotland was mine and NERVs will always be “my baby”, but all credit has to go to the members who have made all of this become reality.
What’s next on your to-do list for NERVs?
1. Going operational on the 1st April 2018 (that is, being recognised by the NHS as an official NHS service).
2. Getting a new bike to replace one of our first bikes, the BMW K1200RS.
How do you get the word out about the work that you do?
Social media is huge nowadays and we like to get as many likes on our Facebook page as possible. The public NERVs page is used by our clients to gauge how popular we are so this is very important for us. Press coverage is very valuable. Events we go to exposes the group to people from many walks of life, we might get new members or someone with contacts that could help progress the group.
How can people help you?
To keep our bikes on the road we need financial donations of all sizes from private individuals, charitable organisations and companies. We’re also very grateful to companies who donate or heavily discount the products or services we need to operate our service. Please see the Donate section of our website at www.nervs.org.uk for further details.
If you would like to find out more about volunteering, please contact [email protected]
Where can I find out more?
Further information about NERVs work can be found at www.nervs.org.uk
Are there other ways people can volunteer to help apart from riding?
Yes, our team includes many people who are not riders or drivers, such as the controllers who work from home, taking calls from the hospitals and dispatching the riders. This is a great way for people who can’t ride for us to take an active part in our operations. We also have people who just help us with fundraising activities etc. Anyone who has a talent or skill they think could be of benefit to us, is invited to contact us.
Thanks Neil, you’ve had an amazing journey so far. Good luck for the future to everyone at NERVs from Visorcat.