Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100
MONDAY 29 JANUARY 2001
100. Are your targets getting tougher year on
(Mr Gorham) Yes. I shall be discussing the target
101. What is your target for this year?
(Mr Gorham) The target for this year, I think we held
it at the level it had been. We will be setting a higher target
for next year and I will be discussing that target with the relevant
director before we finalise our business plan at the end of March.
I have to say, when I first joined the Service I did not think
our performance on complaints was very satisfactory. We have made
a lot of changes behind this, both in terms of the time but also
the quality of response. I shall be expecting a better response
than that next year.
102. My final question is a general one, and
before you answer it please bear in mind that every Chief Executive
of every Agency would like to have more resources. It is a general
point. We mentioned earlier the importance of safety, and public
confidence in the Service and the procedures which are in place
to safeguard againstas far as we canthings like
CJD and HIV and Hepatitis C cost money. I think the figure in
the Report is £60 million a year.
(Mr Gorham) Yes.
103. You, like many Agencies, have been given
savings to make. Is there any contradiction in there? Is there
any reason why we should be perhaps giving greater priority to
safety rather than to savings?
(Mr Gorham) I think one benefit of paying attention
to costs is that it does actually provide the discipline of thinking
very carefully about what you are doing. I think that is equally
important to safety. If we were getting savings targets which
were frankly making it impossible to do our job or were so distracting
it took our eye off the ball then I would be expressing my concerns
to the appropriate people. I think all of us in the Serviceand
I think this is reflected in the Reportthink there are
opportunities to improve the efficiency of the Service. The Department
of Health has funded the additional safety initiatives which have
been taken in recent years and therefore, at the moment, I think
it is perfectly reasonable for the Department of Health and the
rest of the NHS to expect us to make our own contribution to being
104. Giving blood was, I suppose, characterised
very much by the voluntary spirit and it has been immortalised
by Tony Hancock, of course. I just wonder whether we are falling
in between two stools now? I was not very impressed with the answers
given to the questions about appointments and long waiting times,
and I am referring here to paragraph 3.8. I can understand that
in the old days it was very much a local thing, people liked to
drop in, you met characters there, such as Tony Hancock, you got
your sweet cup of tea at the end of it and all the rest of it.
The world is changing now and I think the answers you have given
about appointmentsIt can only surely be in a British public
service that you do not have a computer that can cope with people
changing their appointment times. To me I find this extraordinary
in the modern world where more and more people are working and
are under tremendous work pressures, men and women of all ages.
Surely you can devise a system by which people can drop in if
they want to in the old way or they can get a proper appointment
which is kept to and they can change it if they have to? Is that
too much to ask for if they are going in giving their own blood
for nothing to perform a public service?
(Mr Gorham) That is certainly our objective. I think
we have to be realistic about where we are starting from. The
reality is that, I think probably rightly, the priority was given
to making sure the IT systems that supported the basic safety
of the Service were put right first, and that was a very major
task. I was not part of that, it was finishing about the time
I arrived. That was a very, very major task indeed. I think it
is easy to sit here with hindsight and say clearly there was a
need to start on the donor modernisation programmes earlier than
it happened. I think the risk that those of us who are now dealing
with that face is trying to do it too quickly, without having
thought it through. We are actually talking about a very large
and complicated Service. On any day there are between 90 and 100
teams operating. If we make changes, we have to make sure that
those changes as well as improving the service to the donors,
do not compromise safety, and remember safety starts from the
point where the donor actually arrives at the session. I can understand
your frustration and I think in part I share your frustration.
105. We are all frustrated. You can identify
the problem and you are trying to solve it, are you?
(Mr Gorham) We are trying to solve it and, rest assured,
we will solve it as quickly as we reasonably can.
106. How long are we going to have to wait for
a modern appointment system which you get in any other business
anywhere you go? Nowadays people are no longer in the businesswhether
they are visiting their MP or anybody elseof just queuing
up. That is the modern way. Are we looking at five years, ten
years, when are we going to be up to scratch on this?
(Mr Gorham) We would hope to be offering a significantly
better service across the whole of the country in three years.
107. What does that mean "a significantly
(Mr Gorham) Certainly to have eliminated the very
unacceptable waiting times we are seeing at the moment.
108. What are the average waiting times at the
(Mr Gorham) We do not measure the average waiting
times, what we measure is the percentage of people who wait longer
than the targets we set ourselves.
109. Just remind me what that is?
(Mr Gorham) There is a target which is donors waiting
longer than 30 minutes before registration and there is a target
of donors taking longer than 40 minutes to reach the bed to start
their donation. The 30 minutes is part of that 40 minutes, let
me make that clear.
110. I am a member of the public, I am not interested
in all that. What I want to know is if I want to go and give blood,
on average how long is it going to take me from walking in the
front door to walking out of the front door?
(Mr Gorham) In very many sessions you will be in and
out in less than an hour.
111. What do you mean "in many sessions"?
In most sessions, or what?
(Mr Gorham) It varies at different times of the session
and that is the problem. At the moment we have not got our staffing
and our session opening times matching what the public now want
to do. We will have part of the session running very well and
you will get a very good service
112. In the middle of the morning, for instance?
(Mr Gorham) We do not run many sessions in the morning
except what we call industrial sessions where we go to firms.
What you tend to find is in the early evening it gets very crowded
and that is the issue we are trying to address. I think that is
where we have to make some early improvements ahead of some of
113. So in three years' time I am going to be
able to pick up the phone, make an appointment, change it if necessary,
and I am going to be able to say "I want to come in at 6.30
to give blood" and you are going to be able to see me and
I am going to be in and out in half an hour or three-quarters
of an hour, am I?
(Mr Gorham) That is certainly the objective.
114. That is the objective in three years' time.
Okay. In paragraph 3.5, a number of existing donors, currently
200,000 a year, have stopped giving blood. I have got a confession
to make. It was a long time before I started giving blood and
one day I was walking past Westminster Cathedral Hall and I saw
a big sign saying "Give Blood" and my conscience was
pricked, so I went in and I gave blood and I rather enjoyed it.
I felt, for once in my life, I was doing something useful.
(Mr Gorham) We are very grateful.
Mr Leigh: That is all right. Everybody was very
kind, I must admit. I did not get a cup of tea at the end, which
was a bit disappointing, but we will leave that on one side, I
got an orange juice. I probably got a letter six months later
or something but I am feeling a bit guilty because I rather lapsed.
Nobody has rung me up, nobody has said "Oh, Mr Leigh, you
gave blood on such and such a date, we really need you now. We
are coming back to Westminster Cathedral Hall in a week's time,
surely you can come in?"
Chairman: On a Friday.
115. Everybody who has given blood wants to
do it again but people are indolent, selfish, all those other
qualities I am personally well known for. If you are a business
you would chase them up more, would you not?
(Mr Gorham) Could I just ask you when it was you made
116. A couple of years ago, I suppose, 18 months
(Mr Gorham) We certainly are doing a
lot more because, as you say, it is important that we do. One
thing we are now doing, we have just started, is to mail our Donor
magazine to all our active donors and we have never done that
before. We will be doing that three times a year and that certainly
joins people to the club, if you like. We are doing a joint venture
with the Post Office at the moment to try to clean up wrong addresses
in our database, and that has been a big problem with losing people
because they move and do not tell us. You will be aware we are
doing a lot of tv and radio advertising, which is very much about
keeping the public awareness of the nation going. We do a lot
of telephone reminding now. It may be that you have slipped off
our active base and that is why you are not hearing from us. As
I said earlier, we are sending all newly enroled donors a video
to encourage them to convert to a donor. We have also looked at
our invitation letters and we are trying to make them a lot better.
One thing we are trying to do is to make it sound like it is coming
from a recipient rather than from us because we think what donors
identify with is the blood donation and the benefit to the recipient,
not some mysterious body called the NBS.
117. All right. This 40 per cent of those enroled
as donors who fail to give blood, I am just amazed by this. Is
there no way that you can do better than that? Why is it so high?
(Mr Gorham) I think we need to
118. Are they frightened at the thought of a
needle or what?
(Mr Gorham) I would be surprised if the ones who enrol
are frightened at the thought of a needle. I think people do enrol
on the spur of the moment, as it were, because of a particular
stimulus. The important thing for us to do is then follow up with
another stimulus that actually turns that enrolment into an actual
119. You cannot tell me anything more about
how you can have more success in this field? Again, telephone
calls, all the other things.
(Mr Gorham) I think all of the initiatives that we
are taking are designed both to improve the amount of people who
enrol and donate and then to keep them donating. There is always
going to be some difference between the enrolments and the actual