You could say it’s a taxi service for hospitals.
But rather than taking patients in for surgery, or families to visit loved ones, a selfless band of volunteer riders and drivers transport a very different sort of passenger.
Members of the Service by Emergency Rider Volunteers charity (Serv) make themselves available evenings and weekends to take vital items such as blood, samples and breast milk to and from hospitals.
The Hampshire branch of Serv celebrated its first birthday last month and is now looking to raise its profile to get more volunteers.
County co-ordinator Graham Smith explains: ‘We offer a free out-of-hours service to hospitals to transport various items. We work from 7pm to 6am Monday to Friday and 24 hours at the weekend.’
He adds: ‘At Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham, it’s mainly blood or blood products like platelets, or samples that we take. But we also transfer breast milk for premature babies.’
Serv began in Surrey in 1981. Since then the service has grown and there are now 10 branches covering 16 counties.
Work on creating a Hampshire Serv started two years ago, before the service went ‘live’ in September last year.
Since then the organisation has taken around 35 calls a month – saving Portsmouth Hospitals NHS trust around £2,500 a month in taxi or courier charges, according to Hampshire Serv.
Graham, 48, says: ‘Last September we did a weekend service for the QA and then we took it on from there. Last month we had 38 calls and they ranged from milk runs to blood runs.
‘The service is run by volunteers, so people give up their time free to transport things to and from the hospital.
‘It’s also better for the hospital as they would otherwise have to pay for either a taxi or courier service.’
There are 19 volunteers that serve the Portsmouth area and they work on a rota to cover shifts. They come from varying walks of life, from engineers to retired police and service personnel, a Portsmouth postmistress and a serving Warrant Officer in the Royal Army Medical Corps.
As well as deliveries, volunteers can be called upon to act as controllers and fundraisers or liaise with hospitals.
Graham explains: ‘If you’re on call you get a message from the control room telling you where you’ve got to go, what you have to transport and where you have to take it.
‘When you get to each point you call the control room so they know where you are.’
He adds: ‘For example. once you get to the QA, you would give the control room a call, then after you get to the destination you give them another call, and then finally when you get home you let them know.
‘We always give estimated times of arrival at each point, so the control room knows where the volunteers are at all times.
‘If anything should go wrong, or we need more details on a call-out, then they would be the ones we call.
‘Once we get the packages we simply transport them as quickly as possible. But we don’t work on a blue light system and we never open any of the packages.’
Serv has two marked vehicles – a motorcycle and a van – but would like to have four marked bikes and another van. Graham says: ‘This means we can use those rather than our own, as that means we pay for fuel and maintenance.’
If volunteers take their own transport, then they pay for fuel. If a marked vehicle is taken, then money to fill up is provided for by Serv.
As a voluntary organisation, Serv does not receive any funding and relies on donations from the public.
A charity night is being held at South Parade Pier, Southsea on November 27, including a disco, raffle and bingo.
Serv will be taking part in an emergency services day in Fareham town centre on October 22 and will also be at the Titchfield Carnival on October 23.
Serv is also looking for more sponsors to join Christie Intruder Alarms and Grapefruit Graphics.
· To find out more about Serv, visit servhampshire.org.uk To get more information on helping to raise funds, or to become a sponsor, call Graham Smith on 07955 670899. To become a member, contact Bridget Granville on 07017 891002.