Nottinghamshire Blood Bikes © 2020
Is this like a call centre?
No, far from it in fact.
We have a central "0845" telephone number, and a system that diverts calls from this to our duty controller, so this means you volunteer from the comfort of your own home.
Does it have to be my home?
Not really - that's quite a loose term.
What we mean is that you don't work from OUR premises, since we don't actually have any!
Our number can be diverted to any landline or any mobile. This means you can go just about anywhere you like - assuming you'll get a signal of course.
During one of the 3 or 4 sunny days we get every year, you could even be in the garden supping a nice cold drink!
Perhaps you own your own business and can take calls whenever you like - that's fine too.
Do you spend a lot of time at a relative's house - perhaps because you also look after someone? Well, whatever the situation, if it works for you, it works for us.
So it doesn't have to be a landline?
We'd only prefer this - largely because there are generally less issues with landlines than with mobile coverage, but it is by no means compulsory.
Do I have to live locally?
We're not sure why anyone would NOT want to live here, but the reality is that the role of controller is telephone based, so you could - in theory at least - be anywhere in the world.
As long as you have access to a phone - and a good signal if that's a mobile - then you can be where you like.
We've even had someone taking calls whilst they were on a beach in Skegness, so anything is possible!
Wait until you hear about the donkey...
What else would I need?
We initially record all of our work to paper (for safety) but as soon as we reasonably can, we also then record these details online.
We have a simple system that requires very little training, and this is accessed by riders and drivers too, so everyone on duty (as well as those who run the charity) can see what's happening 'live'.
This means that you'd need some form of internet access, as well as a device to input the details. That could be a PC, a Laptop, a tablet, an iPad or just a smart phone.
We'd probably say we "recommend" something like a laptop, but that's just because it's easier to do some things on a slightly bigger screen - and also because, if you use the same phone that you take calls on, you might find it difficult to juggle both elements on that one device.
What if I want to do more?
To be honest, we encourage it.
There's nothing to stop you ALSO being a rider or driver, as long as you fit the criteria for those roles as well.
Additionally, we ask ALL volunteers to play a part in our fundraising activities. So, even whilst on duty, you could attend an event for a while, with calls diverting to your mobile phone.
Some of our controllers do this - and you'd even have volunteers stood near you that you can despatch to jobs without making a telephone call to them.
How often must I volunteer?
This is actually very important...
Whilst we don't stipulate an absolute requirement (such as X shifts per month), we do insist that volunteers understand they are not merely joining us to add to our numbers, but to actively engage in the process of "doing the job".
This means that we are seeking people who regularly volunteer - which might be one weekend every month, or a couple of days every few weeks, for instance.
We don't state a minimum, because things can become very complicated when there is a formal requirement - which effectively creates the basis of a contract (along the line of an employer - employee relationship).
We're volunteers, nothing more, nothing less!
We want YOU to WANT to volunteer, not because you have to - but because you enjoy helping us to help the NHS.
When volunteers don't regularly contribute their time, they start to let standards slip, and this risks our professional response, and places our charity at risk.
Clearly, that's something we just can't allow, and we hope you'd agree with that.
As such, we need you to be honest.
Are you prepared to give up some of your time on a regular basis?
If the answer to that is no, or "I'm not sure", then we're probably not the right charity for you...
What help will I get if I join?
We don't expect you to know everything as a new recruit - how could you?
As such, we have a tried-and-tested training AND induction program which will take you from "novice" to "regular", with help and guidance at every turn along the way.
We start with induction training.
This is a day, in a 'classroom' setting, where we introduce you to our charity - what we do, why we do it, how, when and where.
You'll see the tools of the trade up close, and you'll be introduced to elements of our fleet too, so that you can gain an instant appreciation of all things at your disposal.
We actually start our training session by understanding the role of controllers (our call-handlers), then we continue with the roles of drivers and riders, plus the safety aspects of working with samples, blood stocks and all the various items we transport.
We document all parts of your training and indeed how we test that you've understood all of that, as this too is an important function of the charity - assuring our NHS partners that we don't simply throw people into the role without being fully compliant.
We may be voluntary - but this must not be confused with being amateurs.
Having completed your induction training, we would look to assign a first mentored shift. You would physically be "on your own" but our mentor would be available throughout the shift.
We'd even look at getting you together with a controller for a few hours if you felt that would be better for you.
Additionally, we have two online forums that you'll gain access to. One when you join, and the other when you're ready for duty.
Using these, you can see much more info about our service, policies and procedures, and also use one of them as a more general "member's forum", discussing just about anything you like, and this is also a good way of beginning to introduce yourself to our other volunteers.
There is, of course, ongoing training too.
We're an ever-growing, ever-changing charity and we're never stood still...
Is there anything else?
Well, yes, there's one more thing...
We require all potential volunteers to complete a DBS check, which we'll pay for.
This is a Disclosure & Barring Service check for criminal records or cautions.
This is a simple, online application process, which we will of course guide you through, and in the event that this highlights an area of concern - something which might prevent you from completing elements of our voluntary duties, we may be forced to withdraw your membership.
Our primary concern is the safety of our NHS partners, and their patients, whilst also maintaining the integrity of our charity.
You would receive the full report yourself, whereas we would only receive notification of areas of concern. No decisions are ever taken without a full discussion.
Who will know my number?
Since our 0845 phone number is diverted to you, callers only ever have access to that - they don't get to see the diverted number.
Our riders and drivers would need to call you - either on your landline or, preferably, on your mobile. That's because they need to 'check in' at various stages of the process.
You then record these events for collection and delivery times, and when they subsequently get home safely.
Will it cost me anything?
There are no costs associated with receiving our incoming calls (well, not for you, anyway) but when you make calls on our behalf, such as allocating jobs to volunteers, then this would really depend upon your own phone contract.
Nowadays, most mobile contracts come with a bundle of 'minutes' and 'texts' and they tend to be quite cheap - it's normally 'data' that sends the cost of ownership higher.
Likewise, those who rely upon a landline would probably also have some kind of call-package too, although it's not always the case.
As such, if you were faced with call charges because of your voluntary duties, we would reimburse you.
If you became a regular volunteer and we felt it was appropriate, we could even look at buying a dedicated sim card for you, which would eradicate this issue.
When we say we're flexible, we mean it!
What hours would I need to 'work'?
We're busy. Very busy, in fact.
Ever since the pandemic took hold of things, our workloads have increased substantially, and much of this work will go on for quite some time yet.
On top of this, we already had plans to move to 24hr service, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. We've effectively moved our plans forward, so this means that ANY and ALL hours that we can cover are a great bonus.
For now, at least, we prefer to have controllers operating for what was traditionally a 'full' daytime or night, which have been either 6am to 7pm, or 7pm to 6am (with a slight change at weekends).
However, with more people joining us as volunteers, we're more than happy to look at ways to accommodate controllers (and in fact our riders and drivers too) if they can give us some blocks of time, rather than ALL day or night, especially during what we might deem as being our busier periods.
Talk to us and find out more.
Ready to give us a go?
Still have other questions?