Community Spotlight:

Blood Runners

Interview by Paul Nicholls

Here in Burpham and Jacobs Well, although relatively small villages, we have many local residents who week in and week out do the most amazing things. Whether they are working in the local community, volunteering to help others or taking on inspiring challenges. We thought it would be interesting to talk to some of these people and find out a little more about their lives and explore what it is that they do and what motivates them.

In this issue we talk to Howard and Graeme, two local residents who have become ‘Blood Runners’ with an organisation called SERV (Service by Emergency Rider Volunteers).

What is a ‘Blood Runner’?
Blood runners supply a safe, quick and reliable service to local hospitals and doctors for the transport of emergency blood and blood products. We also transport emergency medical equipment, drugs and donor organs if requested between hospitals in cases of emergency. The volunteers at SERV do this at night, free of any charge helping to release more money for patient care. They provide this service between the hours of 7pm and 6am, 7 nights a week, 52 weeks of the year, and all day on bank holidays (including Christmas day).

How did Blood Running start?
Blood bikes have been in operation since 1962 when Margaret Ryerson formed the Emergency Volunteer Service (E.V.S.) in Surrey, this was followed by the ‘Freewheelers’ action group in Stevenage in 1969 who initially served hospitals in Stevenage, Luton, Dunstable, Bedford and Hitchin. These original groups are no longer operating, but they inspired other groups and in April 1981, the Surrey group ‘Service by Emergency Rider Volunteers (SERV)’ was set up to supply a quick and reliable means of transporting emergency blood products to the hospitals and medical facilities at night.

The runners are all volunteers who receive no recompense for their time or out-of-pocket expenses, yet provide an indispensable and much needed service.

We asked Howard, a keen motorcyclist in his spare time, what originally motivated him to become a blood runner.
“Well, many years ago, as a child I received blood as part of a routine operation to have my tonsils removed. I remember then thinking that the availability of human blood was an amazing thing. Fast forward approximately ten years and at the age of sixteen I discovered the joy of motorbikes, much to my parent’s dislike. Fortunately, I took some training and many happy and incident free years of motorcycling passed.”

Howard continues, “In 2015, now a Burpham resident and parent to my own children, I returned to motorcycling and at the same time saw an advert for volunteer blood runners and in September 2018 joined SERV Surrey and South East London, Blood Runners. This brought together a way of giving back to the National Blood & Transplant Service and enjoying riding my bike at unusual times of the night.”

So, tell us, what does a typical night shift look like?
“That’s a hard question to answer really, I try to do a shift twice a month and each shift is different, there’s not really a typical shift. It is unusual to get a shift where you are not called, however what happens is we commit to a given night and on that evening we call the controller to let them know we are ready to go. He or she will log you in as available then you just wait for the call.”

…and what happens when your controller calls you?
“The phone rings and my controller will tell me what the job is, hopefully I have not gone to bed by then, although this has happened more than once! They tell me what needs to be done and where I might need to go, it could be to pick up blood from the blood bank at Tooting and take it to a local hospital, typically Royal Surrey, St. Peters, Frimley Park, or further afield into London. It could be to pick up a blood sample from a colleague blood runner who has come up from Portsmouth, meeting them at Royal Surrey and take it on to Tooting. It can also be just paper-work.”

What is it like riding your motorcycle on the roads in the early hours of the morning?
Howard chuckles, “Foxes!! There seems to be hundreds of urban foxes, even in Tooting. They are a bit of a hazard but generally see me coming and run out of the road. We still have to obey all the road traffic regulations as we do not have any special allowances to break the laws of the road in any way.

The runners are all volunteers who receive no recompense for their time or out-of-pocket expenses, yet provide an indispensable and much needed service.

Plus, wearing a liveried hi-vis jacket, our riding has to be of a high standard as we are representing SERV when we ride. Most of us are trained to advanced standards which helps us stay alert and safe at night. There is always the unexpected, like the car I followed on the A3 into London that was swerving across two lanes, it was Christmas Eve, I’ll let you draw your own conclusions!”

So, in what way do you find being a ‘Blood Runner’ rewarding?
“Ultimately it takes me back to the Children’s ward at St. Peters Hospital and my parents telling me that I have had a blood transplant. It was only several years later that I realised the importance of giving blood, which I have also now done. So, it really does tick all the boxes for me, I get to ride my motorcycle, with purpose, at unusual times of the night on relatively empty roads and more importantly giving back to both our community and our NHS service it’s a fantastic feeling of fulfilment.”

Whilst Graeme is also a motorbike owner, he chooses to volunteer as a driver rather than a rider, using his own vehicle, which brings extra duties during the colder months.

We asked Graeme about the differences between a rider’s and
a driver’s duties.

“The product we transport have safety limitations and cannot be transported by bike once the temperature drops below 3ºC. This brings in the need for drivers, as well as the ability to offer continued service in more severe weather, with the use of 4×4 vehicles. Another benefit of using cars is volume – a bike is restricted to two-boxes, where as a car can carry many more. We have one particular nightly run we call the ‘Hooleygan’. We collect multiple SERV group orders from Tooting and distribute them to various regional groups from a rendezvous near Hooley, Surrey. This is normally serviced using a car due to the amount of boxes being collected from Tooting.”

Every night, the dedicated people of SERV SSL are committed to supporting the NHS in your area. But can’t do it without your help. Run entirely by volunteers they are always looking for more people to join. Even if you don’t ride a bike, you can still get involved as a car driver, a fund raiser, or a controller. Please get in contact at or visit for more info.


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