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Severn Freewheelers: Critical support for the NHS

Earlier this year, BPE staff chose Severn Freewheelers as the firm’s charity of the year, following a campaign led by software developer Karen Marsh who is a part time volunteer for the charity.

Severn Freewheelers has played an essential role supporting the NHS throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Karen is a volunteer co-ordinator liaising with hospitals throughout Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire and North Wiltshire, as well as with her counterparts across the country, to ensure speedy deliveries of medical samples and supplies between locations.

A day in the life of a volunteer

Karen’s day starts at 07:30 when she logs into the phone system.  Her first call arrived at 9:30am and her last was at 5:07pm before she handed over to the evening co-ordinator.

Over her shift, Karen received 18 calls from hospitals to coordinate deliveries. 10 of these were to arrange the delivery of medication to individuals at private addresses who had recently been discharged from hospital or who were shielding due to illness, and three of these had to be exchanged with Blood Bikes Wales to cross the Hereford/Wales border.  This service can allow patients to be discharged who would otherwise have had to stay in hospital until their medication was ready, freeing up badly needed space on a ward.

Delivery of chemotherapy treatments has become a regular delivery for Severn Freewheelers, making daily trips to a cancer care hospice in Wiltshire. As the packages for these deliveries are  much bigger, these journeys are done in a car rather than on the blood bikes.

More local deliveries are also made and today Karen co-ordinated a delivery of four samples to pathology labs in Gloucester, Swindon and Bristol.  Volunteer drivers (or the “Pharmy Army” as they are fondly known) also made an additional 19 deliveries taking medication from pharmacies in Gloucester, Cheltenham and Hereford to private addresses. On one of their busiest days, they made 41 deliveries.

Karen has volunteered for Severn Freewheelers for nine years and has never seen the service so in demand. Karen says “I am very proud of the work we as a charity are doing to support the NHS during this difficult time. Each shift is demanding but to know I’m making a real difference makes it all the more rewarding”.

BPE has been supporting the charity already through remote activities such as a step challenge, which is ongoing throughout June, and a virtual pub quiz for staff.

Severn Freewheelers costs £70,000 a year to run and saves the NHS an estimated £450,000. If you would like more information about the charity, please visit the Severn Freewheelers website.

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