Bloodbike charities call on chancellor to return their fuel duty
BLOOD couriers who transport lifesaving supplies by motorbike between hospitals around the clock are pleading for George Osborne to return their soaring fuel costs in the form of grants.
The struggling charities save the NHS thousands of pounds a year. Severn Freewheelers, which cover Gloucestershire, north Wiltshire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire, deal with 350 calls a month, racking up a massive monthly fuel bill of £1,500.
More than half that sum is tax and VAT, with petrol and diesel both near record levels.
Gordon Downie, treasurer of the National Association of Blood Bikes, said: "Our fuel costs are just going up and up and that makes it very difficult for us to continue our vital service. With no assistance or Government funding, charities like ours are already feeling the strain on the recession, but it's the fuel costs that hit us the hardest, not getting any exemption from fuel duty."
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While most hospitals operate an internal courier service to ferry diagnostic specimens, blood, notes, X-rays, scans and other medical equipment, they generally operate only during office hours. At weekends and in the evenings, the alternative is a taxi, or a blood bike charity which runs for free.
Many hospitals across the South West send blood to the NHS Blood and Transplant regional processing and distribution centre at Filton for urgent cross-matching – and the charities bear the cost.
The association has launched a campaign to force a debate about tax cuts for blood bike charities. More than 1,500 people have signed a petition.
Mr Downie said: "We are hoping people will back our campaign to force the Government to debate that matter. Allowing The National Association of Blood Bike groups to recoup fuel duty would not only assist us, but also the public and NHS at large."