A common bug bear among patients is around reception staff asking questions about the reasons for a patients call when ringing for an appointment. Commonly patients will feel that receptionists are prying into the patients business and that they’re not medically qualified so what business is it of theirs? Conversely however patients are also commonly frustrated at appointment availability or wait time for routine appointments.
The two points may seem unrelated but they are linked. It may help if I explain the reasons behind the processes we use and why. As with the majority of practices in the country we are feeling the pressure of demand appointments, and particularly GP appointments. It is a fact that not all requests coming through to the surgery require to be seen by a GP, and nor do we have sufficient GP capacity for them to manage every appointment enquiry.
We do however have a range of clinical staff with different skills who are qualified to deal with a variety of different health matters. We are continuing to develop the skill mix in the practice for example through our recent recruitment of a clinical pharmacist. Ultimately the purpose of a receptionist asking the purpose of the call is to attempt to identify the most suitable staff member or service to support the patient. This helps the patient to be seen at the earliest opportunity and supports appropriate use of available clinical appointments.
Whilst some patients may have a good understanding of what conditions our staff are qualified to see, many patients will not. To be clear, what receptionist are absolutely not attempting to do is to make a clinical assessment or give medical advice and nor are they qualified to do so. They are however trained and given guidance by our clinicians over who or what service is most appropriate for certain conditions.
It is also worth pointing out that in terms of confidentiality all of our staff, both clinical and non-clinical, are bound by the same standards. Staff are expected to understand however that some patients may not wish to disclose personal information for a variety of reasons, and that it is ok, it simply helps when this is possible.