I’m sorry to inflict this on you but I’m going to have a bit of a whinge!
I know it’s not like me but it relates to an experience I had recently while doing one of the very few community-spirited things that I do – giving blood.
NB. For the edification of American readers, in the UK this is a VOLUNTARY thing – WE don’t expect to be paid to do it!
I have been doing this since I first accompanied Faith to a session in Diss, not long after we were married in 1980. Over the years I have always managed at least one “donation” per year while the number permitted has risen from two to three to (in the last couple of months) four per annum. And during those visits to a wide variety of public halls I have, until recently, always felt that those of us bothering to turn out to help others were doing something a bit special and were treated as such by the attendant nurses.
Occasionally, to break the monotony of waiting or of lying on a bed “donating”, a presentation would take place – someone would be given their silver (25 donations) or gold (50 donations) badge and would get a small ripple of applause from everyone else in the room.
You may have noticed that a few sentences ago I used the term “until recently” in relation to my treatment. What changed?
Well a couple of years ago the local session that I attend introduced….. appointments! That is to say, if your job was sufficiently relaxed or you were retired or unemployed you could now turn up 5 minutes before your set time and get “fast-tracked” through to your waiting bed.
“Very good too”, I would normally agree – but not this time! My job is such that I can only ever leave when it is finished for the day – so I can’t ever guarantee to be able to arrive at a set time. Consequently I now turn up when I can and am made to sit, sometimes for as long as 40 minutes even though there are beds available while those with appointments swan in (usually a bit late) and go straight to the front.
Only someone as cynical as I would deign to suggest that the people who have the freedom or leisure to be able to keep such appointments are those with the least need of them! It is a divisive practice leaving those having to wait a long time, through no fault of their own, for a gap in the schedule with the inevitable feeling that their donation is no longer quite as important as that of those who have booked.
What particularly started this little rant was my experience a couple of weeks ago.
My boss had assured me that there would be no problem with my leaving work to give blood at 4pm – which meant that I actually got out at 5.15! I was, therefore, less than pleased to be told on my arrival at the church hall that I would have to wait about half an hour even though there were empty beds clearly available.
I sat and seethed visibly in the waiting area – particularly because this was my 50th donation and I felt that I was being treated as a second class “customer” on what should have been a slightly special occasion.
Don’t get me wrong! I didn’t expect or want fanfares and “Congratulations” played over the sound system but an acknowledgement and a few words of appreciation are always welcome.
As it was, I was half way through giving my latest “arm full” when one of the staff came over and told me, “We’ve just realised this is your 50th but we don’t have any gift packs with us today. Sorry!” She then advised me that she had made a note on the paperwork and “If anyone back at the office reads it they might send you one”!
At this point I had the extremely unworthy thought “Why do I bother?”
And the answer to THAT simple question is, as always, that I “bother” for the sake of those road accident victims and others undergoing major surgery who might die if I didn’t!
The National Blood Transfusion Service clearly isn’t getting the influx of new donors it needs (hence the increase in permitted donations for males to 4 per annum) even after “modernisations” such as the appointment system. It therefore probably isn’t a good idea to worsen the “donor experience” of faithful regulars such as myself.
So, here are my suggestions for the NBTS:
- Ditch the appointments system – it’s divisive, unfair and undemocratic – and go back to “first come, first served” which makes the waiting equally irritating to all!
- If you cannot do that, how about priority for Long Service – I’m thinking of (surprise, surprise!) over 50 donations here!
- A gold badge would be nice – I’ve waited a long time for it! I would even go so far as to say, I’ve sweated blood for it!
- PLEASE bring back the Tuc Cheese Sandwich biscuits to go with the cup of coffee afterwards – getting rid of them was TRULY a backwards step!
Finally, may I just say that however bad the customer service may get I WILL keep coming back. The recent change means I still have a maximum of 41 more donations to make before I reach the age limit – that’s FOUR whole bodies full and I’m sure that could do a lot of good!