Santa won’t be sleeping on Christmas Eve - and nor will live-saving LEBBS volunteers who provide a vital service across the county.
Ever wondered who takes over the NHS’ logistical operations after you’re tucked up in bed?
“You don’t have to put your life completely on hold, but you do need to be ready to drop everything”
The short answer? A fleet of bikes and a dedicated team of more than 3,000 volunteers across the country.
Behind the scenes, and out of the limelight, the Lincolnshire group of the Nationwide Association of Blood Banks - The Lincolnshire Emergency Blood Bikes Service (LEBBS) - works day and night to deliver vital supplies of blood and doctors’ notes to the patients and wards in need of it - as well as transporting breast milk from donors to premature babies.
Since the association’s inception over 50 years ago, more than 30 member groups have formed to cover nearly every inch of the UK - and saving the NHS millions of pounds in the process.
The Lincolnshire group formed in 2012 and has been providing a round-the-clock, free-of-charge courier service for blood, documents and breast milk ever since.
“It began with a run between Grantham and Boston, to cover the NHS out of hours and prevent them from spending on courier services,” explained LEBBS deputy chairman, Charles Douse.
“This was soon expanded to include Lincoln. We went on to incorporate Louth and Grimsby, until we had what we have today - which is pretty much coverage of the whole county.”
While LEBBS runs a large and demanding operation - with 80 active members - they don’t operate out of any headquarters.
From the riders to the duty controllers organising shifts and fielding calls, the entire service is run from the volunteers’ homes.
“We essentially split the county into three,” said Mr Douse.
“The northern section covers Grimsby and Scunthorpe area, the middle includes Lincoln, Louth and Horncastle, while the south serves Boston and Grantham.
“That’s not to say we never go out of area, though. We’ve done runs as far as Leeds, Leicestershire and Nottingham too.”
A keen motorbike enthusiast and ex-serviceman, Mr Douse came across LEBBS while looking for something to fill his time that also gave back to the community.
“It was a match made in heaven, really,” he added.
“LEBBS has had nine bikes kindly donated by local organisations - Rotary and Lions clubs to name but a few - and, for the fair weather driver, four cars, too!”
Potentially soggy driving conditions aside, the volunteers’ roles certainly aren’t for the faint of heart.
With shifts lasting 12 hours, seven to seven in either combination of am or pm, LEBBS has three riders active at any given moment - one in each area of the county.
“While on your shift, you need to be around and ready to go,” explained Mr Douse.
“It’s a case of waiting for a call. Sometimes I’ll be getting on with odd jobs and a LEEBS job will come through.
“You don’t have to put your life completely on hold but you do need to be ready to drop everything and drive at a moment’s notice.”
It’s up to one of the team’s duty controllers to receive details of the pick-up point and decide on the most appropriate rider to send out according to the urgency of the job.
“It’s then up to us to get on our bikes and ride to the pick-up point,” said Mr Douse.
“We keep in touch with our duty controllers with live location updates. It’s a bit mission impossible!
“It’s quite exciting, really, as you start the shift not knowing where you’ll be going, and by the end of it you might have covered a lot of ground and helped quite a few people in need.
“In that respect, it’s pretty exciting!”
The key thing to remember for Mr Douse is that everyone who signs up to LEBBS, and indeed to services nationwide, does so on a completely voluntary basis 365 days a year - many of whom work their volunteer role around their full-time jobs.
Mr Douse added: “We’re not just riders and duty controllers, we go out and fundraise in various ways too. We’re the ones rattling tins and doing daft things to raise money for our cause.
“Sometimes, it’s about putting your hand in your pocket and paying for fuel yourself just to keep these brilliant bikes on the road.”
•For more information on how you can support blood bikes and the vital work they carry out visit www.lebbs.org