Firefighters offer vital road safety training for volunteer medical couriers

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By Susan Kerr

Dedicated bikers who transport life-saving equipment across Scotland are being equipped to make a difference if they encounter their own emergency.

Blood Bikes Scotland operates a free-of-charge medical courier service between NHS hospitals. They can be called upon to transport anything from blood tests and medical equipment to human tissue samples and emergency paperwork.

Firefighters across Scotland run Biker Down courses to give riders potentially life-saving skills to help them make the scene of a collision safe and protect a casualty.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service crews regularly respond to serious collisions knowing those on two wheels are by far the most likely to be involved in a tragedy.

Crew Manager Paul Watson from South Queensferry who ran the course said: “Our crews are all too familiar with the devastating aftermath of incidents on the roads.

“Firefighters are often needed to help people who are trapped and injured following a crash, but sadly there are times when their specialist rescue skills just aren’t enough.

“Biker Down isn’t about lecturing riders on the consequences of things going wrong – it’s about equipping them to make a difference if they encounter an emergency.

“If someone there when a crash happens has the skills to manage the scene and provide first aid it could save a life.”

Motorcyclists are around 38 times more likely to be killed than people in cars - because a collision that would barely damage a vehicle could easily claim a biker’s life.

As many riders travel in pairs or groups a fellow biker is often the first person on scene following an incident involving a motorcycle.

Blood biker Brian Fraser said: “We have over 80 volunteers in Blood Bikes Scotland team – all of whom give their time freely.

“We get a phone call and we just go.  We can transport anything from medical equipment, tissue samples or patient/doctor notes – if it fits on the bike we’ll take it.

“Our team in the Borders are available on call 24x7. In Lothian and Fife we operate Saturday and Sunday plus an evening Lothian shift. In addition we currently have a bike available to the Children’s Hospital in the evening to transport urgent samples to the Labs.

“By using motorbikes, we are able to move items quicker than conventional four wheeled vehicles which is vital as many items are time critical.

“The name Blood Bikes implies we only transport blood, blood samples and blood products but this is only one aspect of what we deliver.

“Taking medication to the frail and elderly in their homes when discharged from hospital and we deliver new prescriptions to District Nurses while they are still in the patients home so that palliative patients can have changes to their pain medication quicker - reducing the time they are waiting on pain relief medication.” 

Blood Bike Scotland started four years ago in the Borders and now run in Edinburgh, Fife and Forth Valley – as well as other NABB (Nationwide Association of Blood Bikes) groups in Dumfries and Galloway (D&G Blood Bikes) and Aberdeen (NERVS). A new group is starting in Highland and Islands.

And all of the charity’s running costs – around £20,000 per year – are met by public donations, with corporate sponsorship affording new bikes.

The bikes can go cross border linking up with other Blood Bike groups throughout the UK – sometimes covering over 200 miles a day.

In 2018 a delivery from the Children's Hospital in Edinburgh to Great Ormond Street and a second delivery of some key audiology equipment to London meant phone calls to arrange a Blood Bike relay. 

Brian continues: “We are all trained to a standard that if we do have an accident and we spill blood then we know how to protect it.

“But we wanted to use Biker Down to learn first aid for ourselves as it is specific to motorcyclists.”

The FREE three hour Scottish Fire and Rescue course is aimed at motorcyclists of all ages and experience.

Participants learn ways of making a scene safe, first aid appropriate to common types of injury and how to safely remove a helmet.

It also offers the chance to learn practical skills to help avoid being involved in a crash.

Crew Manager Watson wants other motorcyclists to come forward to learn potentially life-saving skills.

He said: “Every day around 30 bikers come to harm on Britain’s roads.

“Biker Down gives an insight to what it’s like at the scene of an incident and what steps can be taken to help prevent them becoming tragedies.

“Learning some basic first person on scene techniques could make all the difference and keep a casualty alive until specialist medical helps gets to them.

“Our dedicated volunteers and partners are sharing their experience to make sure that bikers know how best to be seen, how to avoid becoming a road victim and how to safely provide life-saving assistance if they are first on the scene of an incident.

“Our advice for motorcyclists is always to anticipate the actions of others, make sure they could slow down and safely stop if the unexpected happens, and to position their bike in the safest place to maximise their visibility.

“They should always take a 'lifesaver' glance over their shoulder before carrying out manoeuvres, so they know where others are and what they’re doing.”

More information on the courses is available by visiting the ‘Biker Down Scotland’ Facebook page. To find out more, visit or

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