DOCTOR CALLING: By Dr Kevin Hill
Have you ever wondered why your GP receptionist asks questions? The answer is to ensure that patients are seen by the most appropriate healthcare professional at the GP practice. Many practices have a wide range of health care professionals from doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners and health care support workers. Within each of these professions staff have individual areas of expertise and skills so by asking questions the reception staff can ensure patients are seen by the most appropriate person. In many cases it is not necessary for patients to see a doctor.
Receptionists are trained to understand and interpret the responses from patients to different situations and can see as many as 70 people per day, they are an integral part of the practice team; right at the frontline of patient care. Receptionists are also bound by the same confidentiality rules as clinical staff so anything you tell them will not be divulged.
GPs make in excess of 1.3m consultations a day across the UK, and receptionists ensure the smooth running of the practice, keep patients informed about their appointments and treatment, and make sure that all patients are seen in a timely manner.
Said Liz Ball, Chief Nurse at South Lincolnshire CCG: “It is not an easy job, and all too often receptionists bear the brunt of criticism if a patient is not satisfied with the care they receive. Yet, in the majority of cases dissatisfaction may be as a result of circumstances out of receptionists’ control; a lack of GP appointments due to the intense resource and workforce pressures currently facing general practice, although many practices are reviewing their systems to provide more availability of appointments where possible .
“It’s important to remember that whilst receptionists play a pivotal role in delivering patient care, they are not healthcare professionals, and should not be put in a position where they have to make decisions about patients’ health.”
One of the key pledges in NHS England’s GP Forward View is the delivery of nationwide training for the whole practice team, including receptionists and clerical staff. This would have important ramifications for the role of the GP receptionist and the overall patient experience and the College will be following developments closely.