The hardest lesson for IT people to learn…

… is as follows:

Technology is not the answer to every problem

This is something I’ve slowly worked out myself over the years, and try to teach everyone on my team.

Why am I getting philosophical, you ask? Well, last Wednesday I was in the middle of a discussion with two colleagues when my phone rang. It was a nice chap from NHS Blood and Transplant, asking if I wanted to book an appointment to donate blood. Apparently, they’re very short of donations in my type (O negative), which I can believe as only 9% of the UK population has it.

Until recently, when I went to donate, they’d ask me over my cup of tea afterwards whether I’d like to make an appointment for the next session in the same location. And since that location is walking distance back to my flat (you don’t want to be driving yourself when you’ve just had a pint of blood drained out of you), I always said yes. It was simple, and it worked.

However, I and others have noticed that they no longer do this. As a result, you get the call (in my case, for extra fun, the call was interspersed with another one about an emergency), and they tell you that the closest location to home is all booked up for months ahead. I ended up agreeing to go across town (with all the resultant problems about driving afterwards), but decided to dig into the cause.

After a somewhat heated exchange on Twitter, it turned out that they are working on a new system where people book their own appointments on an app, to try and reduce people forgetting to turn up. This is all very well, but nobody at the sessions mentioned the existence of such an app! I could have asked, but since it’s me doing them the favour, why should I? And why can’t they time their begging phone calls better, or try and match up the proportion of appointments they make with the blood types they need most urgently?

I can see the good intentions here, but given that every single session I’ve been to is running late by the end of the day, are they really that badly disrupted by some people failing to turn up for their appointments?

I won’t punish the innocent patients who need a bit of my O negative by stopping my donations, but I am very cross that it will now take another six months to get my donations back in sync with the location I want to be at.