Charity Blood Bikers Dumped by NHS Warwickshire | OPINION
Everyone knows the National Health Service does a fabulous job despite underfunding. Stepping into the funding gap are volunteer riders from services like the Warks and Solihull Blood Bikers (WSBB) who deliver medical supplies in the night and over bank holidays at zero cost to the NHS.
Strange then that WSBB should only get a couple of months notice that their services were no longer required by the local health authority, as the contract to supply movement of medical services was being given to a commercial organisation from Gateshead.
Scooter Clubs in this area – such as Coventry’s All or Nothing SC – have regularly supported the Warks & Solihull Blood Bikers with donations to help keep their bikes running.
Like Air Ambulances, Blood Bikers provide services that any rider could one day need if the worst happens.
Dumped Without Consultation
Mark Lavery from WSBB explained that the Blood Biker service has been supporting the county since 2011 entirely funded by donations. Its riders and drivers are on call all through the night with a 45-minute target time and an exemplary record for reliability.
So why have they been dumped with such short notice?
It turns out that the tendering process took place in 2016 and the WSBB – despite already providing the service – were not even consulted at the time.
A spokesman for University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust (UHCW) explained that the Pathology Labs management decided to tender for a unified service running 24/7 with modern package tracking like Amazon. He also said that the Blood Bikers only dealt with around 1,000 deliveries per year, representing 0.01% of the health trust’s 10 Million annual packages.
The winning bid for this £14Million contract came from QE Facilities Ltd (Gateshead) who are a Limited Company wholly owned by Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust. The spokesman also pointed out that profits beyond the operational expenses from QE Facilities LTD would end up back with an NHS Trust, albeit in the North East and not in Warwickshire.
Given that WSBB as a volunteer organisation were not capable of delivering the integrated system UHCW Trust sought, it is perhaps understandable that they weren’t consulted in the bidding process.
But is it right that they were considered so unimportant that they weren’t told that they were no longer required until this year, allowing them to needlessly spend £35,000 of public donations recently updating their vehicle fleet?
This whole scenario is very sad because it shows just how undervalued and overlooked volunteers are who try to make up for the NHS budget shortfalls through their own efforts.
£14 Million Contract
Meanwhile a quick look at the accounts for QE Facilities LTD shows that the few directors awarded themselves a total of £300,000 in wages in 2018 (up approximately 50% from 2017); which was not bad earnings. The total payment to the highest paid director for 2018 was £169,150.
I’m not so naïve as to think that those running a hopefully efficient transport service for UHCW don’t deserve to be rewarded for their endeavours. However, this is by no stretch a charitable operation if the directors are so handsomely paid before QE Facilities LTD give any profits back to the NHS.
All this teaches us a few facts about modern life:
- Those who are genuinely charitable are outrageously taken for granted.
- It validates the suspicions of those who say the NHS is being privatised through the back-door by contracting-out service after service.
- It suggests that other volunteer Blood Biker services around the country had better watch their backs. I doubt WSBB will be the only volunteer organisation to be cast aside by those earning six-figure salaries…
All this is horribly reminiscent of the situation with the main UK Charities. In 2017 the highest earning staff of the top 100 charities earned on average £277,000.
You make a donation to a charity like Save the Children expecting it do some good on the ground, but that’s only after the top executive has pocketed £314,000+ a year.
Similarly Warwickshire health authority is having to make £32Million in cost reductions which will no doubt come at the sharp end of patient services. Meanwhile those awarded the new Warwickshire transport contract – working under the auspices of another NHS Trust – manage to pocket £150k+ in wages.
Does that seem right to you, because it doesn’t to me?
It makes me feel angry.
What has this got to do with scooters?
Up to the point you get ill or have an accident, not a great deal. Once either of those things happens then you’ll get the best care available despite the back-door privatisation of the NHS and not because of it.
In Warwickshire your blood results will be driven around by people in vans on minimum wage earning a grand salary for those at the top of QE Facilities LTD. Meanwhile the Blood Bikers who freely gave their time to help others, will have to disband and find something else to do…
New products always in development…