Volunteers are the lifeblood of any organisation but, in the case of Plutus Health chief executive Martin Ricketts, giving his time to help others really is in his veins!
Martin is a blood biker, dedicating two weekends each month to couriering samples between south Wales hospitals as an unpaid rider for Blood Bikes Wales. The charity runs 18 motorbikes across Wales, and Martin and his fellow blood bikers – as well as a wider team of organisers, controllers and fundraisers – are cogs in a vital out-of-hours NHS service giving a lifeline to patients and their families.
“The service operates 365 days a year, including bank holidays,” said Martin, who heads up Newport not-for-profit health plan provider Plutus during the week. “On my weekend shifts, I collect samples at 7am, 11am, 3pm and 7pm from the pathology lab in Prince Charles Hospital, Merthyr, and deliver them to microbiology in the Royal Glamorgan, as well as responding to urgent calls.
“We carry a lot of patient samples; mainly blood, but other fluids as well. It’s really important to the individual that they get their test results and we’re a small link in the chain. We don’t know what the samples will be tested for, or even whether the patient will be ok, but I get a great sense of satisfaction from volunteering – even though it can get pretty boring riding up and down the A470!”
Riders also carry out the ‘milk run’, taking frozen breast milk to neonatal units such as at the Royal Gwent. With no breast milk bank in Wales and the nearest one being in Chester, bikers ride to Ross on Wye when needed, to receive the milk supplies from another Blood Bike charity and transport them to neonatal units across south Wales.
With a love of motorbikes dating back to when he was 16, Martin has been a Blood Bikes Wales rider since 2013. “When I retired from Barclays, I wanted to give my spare time to something worthwhile and I was aware that Blood Bike Wales was being formed around that time,” he said.
“Blood Bikes Wales covers all health boards in Wales apart from Cardiff and the Vale, with the bikes, repairs and fuel being paid for by donations. People often don’t realise we’re all volunteers – not just the bikers, but also the person controlling the shift, making sure we sign on and logging every run. There are also fundraisers collecting donations in supermarkets and at events such as emergency services days, and doing PR talks.
“One of the most satisfying moments for me was getting a 1am phone call to collect a sample of spinal fluid from a newborn baby with suspected meningitis. It was very special to play a part in that. It’s also lovely when you park up at the hospital and someone comes over to talk to you – usually about bikes! I was parked at McDonald’s once and a lady came up to say that we do a wonderful job.”
Blood Bikes Wales controller Helen Rees-Jones said: “Martin is a fantastic volunteer for our charity. He’s dedicated and is involved in all aspects of our work, including giving awareness talks and fundraising. Blood Bikes Wales relies on people like Martin to raise funds and awareness alongside providing rider cover. We’re the largest charity in Wales to operate on volunteers alone; nobody gets paid for their time and efforts. We run purely on good will and Martin is a great asset to our organisation.”
To find out more about becoming a Blood Bikes Wales volunteer or making a donation, visit https://bloodbikes.wales/ or follow the organisation on Twitter and Facebook at @BloodBikesWales.
Plutus Health provides a cost-effective alternative to private healthcare, giving cash back to customers for routine health appointments such as the dentist, optician and a range of complementary therapies. To find out more, call Plutus on 01633 266152 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.