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Dorset scheme to get district nurses on bikes expanded after success

Jill Dowland


Pictured: Purbeck district nurse and e-bikes champion Jill Dowland

Increasingly Dorset Healthcare’s mobile nursing teams are switching from cars – the usual mode of transport for district nurses today – to electric bikes to help the environment, bypass traffic jams and promote healthy living.

The idea was first trialled in Purbeck last year after nurses there visited community nurses in Holland, who use bikes for most home visits. The Dorset Healthcare University NHS Foundation Trust has since provided £2,000 to expand the scheme to other areas such as Dorchester and Bournemouth. 

Hattie Taylor, lead district nurse for Purbeck, made the bid for the funding in the trusts ‘Dragons’ Den’ style staff innovation competition after seeing the difference e-bikes could make to her team.

‘We had the idea after a trip to Gouda in Holland, where healthcare staff use bicycles to get to appointments all the time,’ she said.

Purbeck is not quite as flat as Holland, so the Dorset nurses opted for an electric bike scheme. Despite the hills, Ms Taylor believes the e-bikes are a much better alternative to cars.

She said: ‘You can get through traffic more easily and don’t have to worry about finding a parking space when you get to an appointment. Cycling also gives us a bit of clear headspace between visits, and we feel like we are setting a good example around staying fit, active and healthy.’

In addition, the bikes save on travel costs for the trust and help reduce pollution. The average car mileage costs for just one full-time member of staff in the Swanage area is over £600 a year, moving to e-bikes has allowed significant savings to be made.

Ms Taylor added: ‘Our patients love it when we turn up with our helmets on. It’s an amazing feeling getting around the community on two wheels, it’s like district nurses used to do in the old days, and I was keen for other teams to have that choice.’

Originally many nurses would have visited their patients by bicycle. In ‘The District Nurse’, a pictorial history of community nursing detailed in The Daily Mail, author Susan Cohen details how the early community nurses travelled, usually by horse, on foot or by bicycle. In 1914, the nurse’s uniform was altered to be cycle-friendly and skirt lengths were shortened. Eventually, however, bicycles gave way to cars.

Today the community nurses in Dorset want to encourage more trusts and teams to explore the benefits of using e-bikes.