NHS defends decision to pay a company for a service that Warwickshire and Solihull blood bikers were performing for free

File image.
File image.

Blood bike volunteers in Warwickshire have accused an NHS hospital trust of wasting taxpayers' money after it signed a contract to pay a company to do what the blood bikers have been doing for free.

Warwickshire and Solihull Bloodbikes (WSBB) previously provided an out-of-hours, year-round emergency motorcycle courier service delivering blood products from Nuneaton, Rugby and Warwick to University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire (UHCW) for free.

But that contract has been given to QE facilities, a wholly owned subsidiary company of Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust.

Chairman of WSBB Mark Lavery said: "Through our own enquiries we have found out that UHCW has chosen to pay a company for work we have previously done free-of-charge.

"We are devastated that the NHS could make such an award without consulting us.

"We have completed over 7,000 calls in all weather conditions since we were founded in 2012 and it is estimated we have saved UHCW nearly £700,000 in that time.

"All our unpaid volunteers are shocked at the decision. We have committed significant time and effort to grow the group where public donations have enabled us to invest in five vehicles to maintain service in all weathers 365 days a year. All that is now in jeopardy.

"We believe an investigation is warranted to determine how and why an experienced and reputable charity can be sacrificed in a cash-strapped NHS.

"It is totally beyond comprehension how taxpayers' funds can be used to increase the profits of a company when there is a proven free-of-charge service already in place."

A spokesperson for University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust said any profits made from the contract will be reinvested into healthcare - not transferred to independent shareholders.

The spokesperson said the trust uses a wide range of suppliers to transport blood and other medical items, with WSBB transporting around 1,000 items a year - accounting for 0.01 per cent of items received by the the Coventry and Warwickshire Pathology Service (CWPS).

“With complexities increasing and the service potentially expanding to cover areas such as Hereford and Worcester, a decision was made to standardise delivery to ensure current and future needs, as well as stringent UK accreditation requirements, are met and exceeded.

“In line with public sector procurement regulations, we went out to open tender and supplier days were held to inform organisations of our requirements," the spokesperson added.