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Volunteer Blood Runners covered 83 hours every week for 18 weeks

19th November 2020

Volunteer Blood Runners Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust

Submitted by Sharon Herring, Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust

Our team of Volunteer Blood Runners have shown incredible courage and dedication to the Trust in order to enable us to continue to deliver an efficient service to our patients and respond to a challenge presented by the Covid19 pandemic.

When the pandemic started, the Trust took the decision to stop using their air-pod system to transport blood and swab samples around the Trust, for example, from our Emergency Department to our Pathology Department to prevent infection. However, this meant the samples then needed to be transported by hand to the Pathology laboratories for processing. Initially, our porters were asked to do this on top of their normal activities. This was causing a delay in getting samples delivered and therefore processed, and subsequently impacting on patients receiving treatment and ultimately being able to be discharged.

Blood Runners Richard Huff

The Emergency Department asked if we could create a volunteer role to carry the samples and to free the porters to do their normal activities. Within a week we had filled the rota with existing volunteers and covered 7 days a week from 9am-10/11pm, with many volunteers taking on several shifts a week, including unsocial hours. The rota of Volunteer Blood Runners covered 83 hours across the whole week. It started in April and ended in August 2020 when the Trust started using their air-pods again. Initially it was covered by 10 dedicated volunteers covering long shifts or several shifts over a number of days. Gradually the team grew to 16.

The samples would be double bagged and labelled as potentially hazardous in our HOT Covid19 areas before being bought out to a makeshift collection station in the entrance of A&E. The volunteers would then put them in larger bags to carry over to the pathology laboratories.

Across the 18 weeks that the blood runners were offering their services, they did over 6,000 trips back and forth between the Emergency Department and Pathology Department. Each trip took on average 4 mins there and 4 mins back again, so that is a saving of 800 precious hours of our porters’ time, especially when we had portering staff shortages due to COVID19 isolation rules.

Given that the volunteers were potentially carrying infectious Covid19 samples, the volunteers showed great courage in agreeing to help out in this role and many of them took on several shifts for long hours during the week, walking miles and miles over the course of the day delivering the samples from one end of the hospital to the other. It was not a hugely exciting task in that all they were doing was walking back and forth and by the time they got back there were more samples to take, but it was a vitally important role. It was really important that we maintained our patient flow through the hospital and in particular did not keep any patients in A&E any longer than was needed.

Blood runners Keith Burden

Our Blood runners enabled us to maintain, if not improve, the system we had before and ensure no samples were left waiting for long periods of time before they were taken to be processed. This showed true dedication to the Trust in undertaking a role which was vital at the time and which would not be something that everyone would be comfortable in doing.

“Absolutely fantastic work done by our volunteer blood runners who have supported clinical practice, by ensuring timely turnaround of blood samples taken to labs and results back in a quick time. This help has meant that patients have had a shorter time in the department reducing their anxiety and worries and meaning their treatments were completed quicker and discharged sooner! Thank you! A great asset to the team”. (Lead Sister A&E)

These volunteers were happy to be helping us in any way they could. They are truly amazing and should be recognised for this dedication and courage during a very difficult and challenging time.

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