Its 8am on a Sunday morning. And I'm frantically trying to shovel the snow from our drive so I can get the car rolling.
Why? Because in an hour we're going to discover if my wife has a wild imagination, or if there is another life form growing within her and joining us in a few months.
I'm amazed we get the appointment for the ultrasound rearranged so quickly, but then I remember I had to ring the hospital switch board rather than the direct line of the Obstretics department as the chances of finding someone on the end of the line are higher (something I learned when my father was a patient at the same place).
In case you haven't realised, we've come to the local NHS hospital for the first pregnancy scan of our soon to be second child.
Good news on the one hand, but being the worry wort that I am (only the paranoid survive you know) this part fills me with dread as we start this amazing journey of human life with the possibility that a medical professional can tell you 'there's something wrong' (the phrase that every parent never wants to hear concerning their children).
We enter the hospital grounds and there's snow everywhere- I can't even see where I should park my car. After a lot of walking we finally get to the right department as the signage could do with being a bit clearer, and at the entrance we're greeted with an interactive check in console, which looks great but fails to recognise my wife Alex's details.
At this point it's 8.55, we've been on the grounds of the hospital for 23 minutes and I have yet to see a member of staff. I start cursing the weather and think that we're on our way home as they couldn't have made it in. We eventually get further into the building and come to a small reception desk which is manned...
The receptionist looks too clever to be sitting behind this desk, and directs us to the waiting area which looks deserted- I guess we're the only ones they're expecting. I engage a nurse to help occupy Mia and when we get back, my wife has already vanished into one of the examination rooms- Eventually I figure out where the talking is coming from and I knock on the door (closely followed by Mia shouting 'Mummy' at the top of her voice...)
It turns out that the Obstetrician was the woman behind reception desk and I only get about 2 minutes of looking at the a monitor setup for the partners, as our troublesome two year old gets bored and we're on the move again.
Finally, as we're leaving the car park the Alex and I start talking about all the changes that await us pending junior's arrival, and all the facts to date that we have about our growing little bundle of joy. Throughout this talk, Alex keeps mentioning about the how much the Obstetrician assured her about what was going on inside her belly- somehow the lady did a brilliant job of quickly answering my wife's concerns and getting her excited with the amazing things that will happen in the next few months. Alex finishes by showing me the sheet that the obstretician gave her, with all the measurements she took and why....
What's in a name?
So there you have it, a personal and very recent 'warts and all' experience of yet another brand- The institution that is the National Health Service. A brand exists as a name, and I would argue that few names conjour up such an extreme of good and bad connotations for us Brits.
Even as I write, I can hear some of you moaning about your experiences with the NHS. But before you cast your verdict on this piece, I'd ask you to think about my experience in detail (as I did when I started writing).
I would have had difficulty getting the appointment changed had I not known the hospital well, but getting through to the right person or department is a fundamental let down with many a WOW brand- We bought an iTunes voucher at Christmas, but when I tried to redeem it the code was rejected. The retailer told me that I should approach Apple, but what was more annoying was that when I did walk into the Apple store, they directed me online to get it resolved. After a lot of faceless dialogue, they told me that the voucher was not traceable and have done nothing to to help me.
I could put seeing no staff down to the weather, but again the interactive check-in was a major let down- A first impression which promised so much but gave so little- Not being expected even raised a quiet expletive from my wife! Our disappointment with brands often comes from being promised more that they can deliver, but why do so many products and services fall into this trap?
WOW where it matters...
I thought the receptionist come Obstetrician was the worst and the best of the NHS all rolled into one. The NHS was born out of a long-held ideal that good healthcare should be available to all, regardless of wealth (click here). That principle remains at its core, but the commercial realities of today's world make it almost impossible to comply with that promise and deliver the levels of service that we take for granted.
However, I'd argue that the WOW of any brand is deeply engrained into the people of the company that deliver the brand, and here the Obstretician, appearing on a Sunday, created the relief, reinforced the joy, and emphasised the care that we'll receive on junior's journey. I guess we experienced the WOW of the common people.