Leave no dead ends

I was reminded of this key principle from Lou Downe’s 15 Principles of Good Service Design on a recent trip to the doctors which ended in a rather frustrating way!

I’m a blood donor and was due to make my 25th donation last month, except a low haemoglobin level scuppered my plans! The nurses in the session were lovely, they reassured me that it was probably nothing to worry about but said I should book an appointment with the GP just in case. While I was there, they took a more accurate reading of my levels and filled in a leaflet for me to give the GP with all the important numbers in. That part of the service was perfect and I went on my merry way *chef’s kiss*

3 weeks later, I hand the leaflet over to the GP and…

“That level isn’t low, it’s normal *eye roll*

She stares at me, waiting for me to say something.

I stare back. (This is interesting, not the outcome I was expecting…)

She still stares at me, I stay quiet. (I’m comfortable with silence, I think she’s expecting me to apologise for wasting her time or something?)

At this point, Adele in a parallel universe probably would have said “Whoah there, don’t shoot the messenger! I wasn’t to know that when I booked this appointment 3 WEEKS ago. I’ll be off then, byeeeee…”

I didn’t, of course.

She breaks the silence by sighing and reading through the leaflet again. I now feel like the naughty school kid going through the humiliation of the teacher reading through a note she just passed to a mate.

I feel I’ve hit a dead end.

So what happened here?

  • I was acting on advice from one service (donating blood) and became the messenger of information to another service (telling my GP)
  • What was deemed to be a low number in one service, wasn’t in another; the thresholds were different and were subjective
  • I felt the GP was talking to me as if I was the service, rather than the patient. The way the outcome was communicated was rather blunt and lacked empathy
  • I did the right thing, and was left feeling dissatisfied and like I’d wasted someone’s time

How could it have been better?

A simple “You’re fine, there’s nothing to worry about…” message would have be fine! No blame, no humiliation, no onus on me to defend why I’m there. Reassurance that it’s all good and no further action was needed. Simple.

Experiences like this help me to reflect on my own practice and ensure that as a Service Design team, we minimise the chance of them happening at West Northants.

Analogous experiences happen like this all the time: the frustration of a support ticket being closed with a “not the right department” answer or filling in a massive form to raise a concern about something to be met with a blunt “no further action” response.

It’s very common for people to veer off a journey and take a different path – the important thing is ensuring they end up with a clear outcome, even if it’s “you’re fine, nothing to worry about”.

(As an aside, I do have to say that the whole end-to-end experience of giving blood is spectacular. From booking on to a session, making the donation, getting a bag of Mini Cheddars and finally receiving a text explaining where your blood went; simply brilliant!)


  1. This is great Adele.
    I had a similar experience with my iron levels when giving blood around 16 years ago. In my case, the result was “yup, there’s a problem” and, some months later, a Coeliac Disease diagnosis.
    Would you mind if I shared your blog post on LinkedIn to (a) say how well it explains no dead ends and (b) agree that giving blood is a brilliant end to end service and (c) encourage folk to follow up with their GP if advised by the blood donor service.

    • Thanks so much Tass and thanks for sharing your experience too – it makes me wonder how many things are picked up in the first instance by the wonderful blood service?!

      Please do share widely on LinkedIn, I’ve just found you over there, so “hello!” 🙂

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