SERV provides a free out-of-hours service (19:00 to 06:00 weekdays and 24-hour coverage at weekends and public holidays) delivering urgent blood products, human donated breast milk and samples for our local NHS hospitals and Air Ambulance services. Due to coronavirus, and the increased demand this brought, the organisation made the decision to have volunteers available 24 hours a day, every day.
A grant from the Suffolk Coronavirus Community Fund helped SERV to cover the additional fuel and vehicle maintenance costs this incurred, enabling the organisation to increase its capacity to support local health services such as Ipswich Hospital, West Suffolk Hospital and St Elizabeth Hospice. The hospitals needed more samples moved between establishments than usual, as well as products transported between Ipswich Hospital and its satellite operations at the Nuffield. SERV has also delivered medication to self-isolating patients who were unable to leave the house.
As soon as lockdown started, we were approached by various groups and hospital departments asking us if we could help. These ranged from the Red Cross, doctor’s surgeries, pharmacies, oncology departments and hospices. It quickly became apparent that not only did we not have the resources to do all these deliveries at night but a significant number of our volunteers who were normally at work were now either working from home or furloughed and therefore available during the day. The obvious decision was made… we have become SERV Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, available 24/7, 365 days of the year and my goodness, it has been a busy one!
Since then, our workload has more than doubled. Alongside our business as usual tasks of delivering blood, blood products, patient blood samples and donated breast milk, we took on delivering PPE, medicines to those unable to leave their homes and deliveries of medical equipment for hospices. We went from completing 5 or 6 tasks per night to delivering over 1000 drops of PPE over 3 months and nearly the same amount again in medicine deliveries with our volunteers covering nearly 40000 miles.
This huge increase in our services meant that the budget we had allowed for running our liveried vehicles in 2020 was rapidly depleted and coupled with the cancellation of all our fundraising events, this meant we had to look elsewhere for funds to continue providing our service free of charge to those who needed it most.
The donation we received from the Suffolk Coronavirus Community Fund we received from the Suffolk Community Foundation was agreed, received quickly and just in time. It has been used to cover the fuel and running costs of our volunteers and the liveried fleet of vehicles. Thank you from us all.