Monday, 23rd of May 2022

Contact Us: 07900 581 557

Monday, 23rd of May 2022

Contact Us: 07900 581 557

public service review

"Bloody marvellous"

Netpromotes work with and The National Health Service Blood and Transplant Service

Public Service Review heralds the national blood service website as a good example of a truly user-focused public service destination.

The Government recently announced its progress report on 'Transformational Government: enabled by technology', which included the news that at least 551 government websites are to be cut to make access to information easier for citizens and businesses. In a move that will benefit tens of millions of users, only 26 of the websites examined so far are certain to be retained by government, while 551 will go.

When Labour came to power in 1997, only 5% of households had Internet access, but that has now risen to 57%, and the Cabinet Office believes that people prefer to find what they need quickly and easily, rather than choosing to surf across huge numbers of sites. With this in mind, websites such as should be made the benchmark for other public service sites to follow.

The National Blood Service website for England and North Wales is an integral part of the NHS and its modern simple tools offer the public an easy way to access information. Caroline Osborne, Head of Marketing Services for the National Blood Service, said: "We were very early in adopting digital media as a means of giving people up-to-date information. We implemented a 'session searcher', which talks to our computer system and uploads data daily; this allows the public to receive the most recent information on where and when their local blood donor session is. They can even book an appointment. This session searcher was key to providing access to our services, as previously, the only way we had to give donors session dates was by writing to them, which obviously has time delays."

Along with the session searcher, Caroline and the NBS were quick to utilise other tools that offered the public more information. "The Blood Stock Counter has been on our website for a number of years; again, it's updated daily and keeps the public up-to-date with blood stocks across the UK. We had blood stock level information within our organisation for the country, and it seemed right to give access to this information, for anyone to view."

In 2005, then Prime Minister Tony Blair said: "The future of public services has to use technology to give citizens choice, with personalised services designed around their needs, not the needs of the provider".

The former Prime Minister was right; public services have to use technology to give citizens choice and their needs should be placed before the provider, so why has it taken the Government a further three years to realise this?

The National Blood Service website has no such problems, with personal services designed around customers' needs; the website has placed the donor at its heart. "We were very lucky as an organisation that we are national, rather than regional, like most other public sector organisations," said Osborne. "Even today, you have local health authorities which have their own websites. If you look at the Transformational Government report, we were already 'transformed', partly because of our structure; we only had one 'give blood' website, so we were more efficient from day one. We never tried to break the website content down to a local level as we knew this would cause confusion.

"In designing the site, we put the needs of the donors first; they are our true customers. You may not have a choice of who you can donate blood to, but you have a choice every day whether you give blood or not. If we designed the website around the organisation rather than the donor, we would not be putting donors first. Within the NBS, there is a real difference in culture to other public sector organisations; even when we were regional, we knew a national one-stop-shop website was in the best interest of the donor."

The 'customer comes first' policy implemented by the National Blood Service has seen the site go from strength to strength, but how much work is involved in delivering such a simple efficient service and can the Government replicate the success of

"The website is designed with the visitor in mind," said Osborne. "We have not used any jargon, and have kept everything simple and easy to navigate. We try and think like a person who is not aware of the blood service, so we have structured the site as simply as possible. We have chosen not to have the technical knowledge or ability in-house to create our website, and we are fortunate to work with two private sector companies who provide us with the advice and knowledge to maintain the website and keep it fresh. They have helped deliver an excellent website and are in constant communication with us, recommending improvements such as key word changes, in order to raise our search engine optimisation across the Internet. This constant review from third parties keeps the website at the forefront of developments."

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the process of improving the volume and quality of traffic to a website from search engines via 'natural' ('organic' or 'algorithmic') search results for targeted keywords. Usually, the earlier a site is presented in the search results or the higher it 'ranks', the more searchers will visit that site. SEO is being seen as an essential tool for any website, whether private or public. "SEO is crucial to us, and we use organic optimisation to very good effect," said Osborne. "We are very often placed ahead of any other blood service worldwide; this is down to allowing our partners within the private sector to be our experts. After all, we are a blood service provider, not a SEO company."

The phrase 'the customer always comes first' has never been more appropriate than it is for the National Blood Service and with the recent streamlining of public service websites, the Government would be hard pushed to find a better example of a service designed around the customers' needs. As government public service websites come under great scrutiny by the critics, solace can be found in the work being carried out at the National Blood Service. With up-to-date information and easy access, should be heralded as a benchmark for efficient, simple and accessible public services.

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