Cancer Care At Its Best



I have a friend that has recently be diagnosed with cancer and she is facing many weeks of chemo. Her hair is falling out, and she has got those dreaded mouth ulcers amongst other things. But through this she is staying positive and I must say she is pretty amazing.

What keeps her so positive?

It’s the support she has from her family and friends. But that’s not all, she has shared with me the support she has received from everyone involved in her treatment and the care she has received has just been incredible, she has found every single person caring for her in the NHS just amazing.

From the Receptionists at her doctor’s surgery, to the doctors and nurses, hospital transport and volunteers at the hospital she has found every single one of them helpful and informative.

It’s not just the treatment that plays a big part in someone getting better and staying positive, it’s a lot to do with they support that they received from every single healthcare professional that is involved in their care.

Being a Medical Receptionist is more than customer service, its patient care at its best.

You could make someone’s treatment just that little bit more bearable in the way that you deal with them when they visit your surgery.

Always treat someone they way you would want to be treated.

Posted in The Surgery, The Doctors, The Receptionist, The Patients, The Nurses, The Hospital, Customer Care, Communication Skills, True Stories, Medical Receptionists, Doctors Receptionists | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Disposing of confidential information / Staff Training

I have just read an article about a NHS hospital that has had medical records of several patients found “blowing around in the street”

here is the link

This story brings my thoughts back to a time in the surgery when I arrived at work early one morning to find several torn up pieces of paper littering the car park around the back of the surgery building.

On investigating what it was I was mortified to see that the litter contained  patient information – by sheer luck it was a wet day and the information was wet and had fact stuck fast to the ground and it was in torn up pieces – but I could still identify some patient information. I searched the grounds and by sheer luck there was only a few pieces that I found – I went over to the bin area and found that the lid to the bin had blown up, the bin was in fact full and the contents had blown out. The bin contained more patient information.

I made sure that every bit of patient information was removed from the bin and brought back inside and I investigated straight away why that information had found its way into the bins.

I discovered what had happened. We had a new member of staff join the Reception team the day before. She was working the late shift with one other Receptionist and the new Receptionist had not been shown where the confidential waste was to go so she disposed of the information in the normal office bin. The older serving Receptionist had printed off the next days surgeries (this was always done in case of a power cut and we would at least have a list of patients due into surgery the next day) That day’s list would then be destroyed.

There were numerous large marked containers around the surgery for all confidentiality waste to go into. The Receptionist gave the lists to the new Receptionist “thinking” the new Receptionist would know where it had to go – the new Receptionist had never worked in medical field before and had no idea of confidentiality and what it really meant,  something that we all take for granted.

Our cleaners were also excellent and if they were ever in doubt about putting something in the normal bins they would ask someone. This particular day we had another cleaner covering as our usual one was on holiday.

A team includes everyone even the cleaners. In my experience including the cleaners in certain training sessions and keeping them updated with certain changes in the Surgery definitely helps in many way.

I completed an incident report form and I discussed this with staff at our next Team Meeting.

A big error made and we were completely at fault. This incident highlighted we cannot take anything for granted, especially when it come to new staff – training is vital, and so in ongoing training for older serving members of the team, and if you employ cleaners perhaps they should be included in confidentiality training, and if you have contract cleaners ensure that they are fully aware of confidentiality. It might save a lot of problems if something like this should happen.

I have recently completed confidentiality training to a organisation (not healthcare) and used this incident in the training sessions  - several people over the two courses admitted that they didn’t destroy customer confidential information and just put it in the normal bins and agreed they would all be shredding all their confidential information from now on.

Posted in Communication Skills, Confidentiality, Customer Care, Doctors Receptionists, Going To Meetings, Medical Receptionists, New Receptionists Training, Receptionist Training, The Patients, The Receptionist, The Surgery, Training, True Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

2. DNA – The Reception Team Member


Referring back to my blog on DNA appointments I received a lovely reply from a Reception Team Member who works for a surgery that has approx 25,000 patients.

She too spoke of the frustration that DNA appointments can cause on a daily basis. She now had a system in place at the end of the day where she gets her team to first checks who made the appointment, and whether the patient has already booked. The team approach the patient in a positive manner (ie not guns blazing) as she agreed there could be an error on the surgery in not cancelling the appointment. People will also respond better when someone is approaching them in a positive manner.

The team asks the patients why they DNA their appointment, and in many cases they are extremely sorry for missing their appointments.

I think this is an excellent exercise as it can flag up several issues

  • It can let the patient know you are monitoring the appointments system – especially for those patients that just have not “bothered” to cancel their appointment.
  • It could flag up that patients perhaps are cancelling their appointments and they are not being cancelled on the system
  • Are appointments being booked too far in advance (ie 6 monthly BP checks, or diabetics checks – if so how could your surgery best deal with this.
  • Could highlight the importance of giving out appointment cards whenever possible.
  • Could highlight those few that are constantly not turning up for appointments.

When speaking to the patients regarding their DNA try to get the reasons why in a positive way and look at ways of improving the amount of DNA’s that your surgery has.

What would be helpful would be when you are talking to the patients if it is the first time you speak to them about their DNA you could explain that you are trying to look at the amount of DNA’s and at ways of decreasing these and their feedback on why they DNA would help with this exercise. Explain if patients cancel their unwanted appointments then this will free up appointments for other patients – which could be them. This was it will turn the telephone conversation into a positive one instead of a negative one.

But I am sure getting a phone call regarding a DNA will certainly get a patient thinking more carefully next time if they simply do not want the appointment and hopefully they will phone to cancel the appointment.

Thank you for your feedback and hopefully this will help other surgeries in dealing with their DNA’s.

Posted in Communication Skills, Customer Care, Doctors Receptionists, Medical Receptionists, The Doctors, The Nurses, True Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I’m Late, I’m Late for A Very Important Date



In today busy society meetings and training sessions are an every day event for most of us.

As Managers we have meetings with the Partners, we have meetings with outside agencies we then have to have meetings with our Heads of Departments and meetings with the Reception Teams.

We sometimes have to have meetings about meetings!!!! Or it seems like it.

As well as meetings we often have to attend or facilitate training sessions.

Whatever we might be attending be it a meeting or training session it all takes up valuable time and often we might have to attend these in our own time.

So, what annoys me more than anything is bad organisation of a meeting and bad timekeeping.

If you are responsible for organising a meeting session please give some thought to the following


  • Ensure the agenda is sent out well in advance and people attending have the opportunity of adding something to the agenda and giving them time to arrange the time to attend or sending their apologies if they cannot attend.

Minutes of the Previous Meeting

  • Ensure that everyone has been sent a copy of the minutes of the previous meeting to enable them to read before the meeting. Precious time can be lost if people have to read through the minutes of the last meeting before the meeting can actually start.

The Meeting

  • Ensure that the meeting room is set up read for the meeting to start. This includes

-       Relevant paperwork prepared

-       Room prepared as in tables and chairs set out / computers / overheads /   whiteboard / paper / stationary         

  • I have been at a meeting that should have started at 9.00 only to find that the room had to be set up – paperwork had to be photocopied and overheads set up. The actual meeting started at 9.30.
  • If you are not able to set up before the meeting on the day (ie early meeting) ensure that this is done the day before.

Start and Finish Times

  • You should always have a start and finish time for your meetings and keep to these times.
  • It is important that people know the times as they can plan around the meeting.
  • There is nothing worse than someone turning up late to a meeting or worse if the meeting is running late (due to it starting late) people start getting up and leaving as they have other commitments to attend to.
  • Out of respect you owe it to the people who do turn up on time that the meeting starts and finishes on time.

The same applies to any training session that you might be holding. The start and finish times are just every bit as important to the participant as the session itself.

I am attending a training session at the moment every Wednesday morning at the moment. The tutor on the very first session made it very plain that the sessions would start at 10.00 on the dot and not a minutes later – but also that they would finish at 12.00 on the dot. Everyone knew exactly where they stood and five weeks in not one person has turned up late – and we have all finished on time to. It is such a breath of fresh air to know that we would not be sitting around waiting on the “latecomers” arriving.  We were also asked on that very first session that our mobile phones would have to be switched off during the sessions. Everyone was happy to go along with this.

Yet another course I have recently finished was completely different – people would role in 10 minutes late, to the point one didn’t even had the decency to apologise for being late. Mobile phones would regularly ring during the session and people would go out to answer their calls.  These things disrupted the class as the tutor would then re run what she had gone through with us. This was frustrating as we would have all liked to have had a bit more time at home in the morning, but we agreed to attend the training session, fully aware of the starting and finishing times.

Resentment started setting in amongst some of the group – little digs were given about timekeeping but the tutor wasn’t strong enough to enforce the times – and by this time the sessions had been going for some weeks.

Nothing is more annoying that bad timekeeping.

So, if there are regular meetings, or a training session that might be running over a period of weeks I would suggest that you make it very clear on the very first meeting or session that time keeping is important, and you will start the meeting or the training session at the given time and you would appreciate that everyone turns up on time (of course there are always the exceptions but notice of this would be appreciated). Also that mobile phones are switched off whilst the meeting/session is running.

Always give a contact number or email address to your group in the event that they are not coming, that way you can start the session fully aware that they are not going to be there.

You certainly will find that if everyone knows this from the start and you will not abide latecomers that everyone will arrive on time.

Respect should be given to those that turn up on time.

Posted in Customer Care, Training, Managers Training, Communication Skills, Managers / Supervisors Training, Meetings, Going To Meetings | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dealing With The Bereaved

How does your staff  handle people when they come into the surgery that have recently been bereaved?

  • Do your staff have training on dealing with patients that have recently been bereaved? Remember good trained staff are confident staff.
  • Do you have a protocol on dealing with bereaved patients? Do you notify your Receptionists when a patient dies or do you just leave it for them to find out?
  • Are you confident in the way that your staff deals with patients that come into the surgery that had just recently lost a loved one?
  • Is your staff compassionate? Are they helpful to those patients suffering a loss?
  • Do you notify your Doctors / District Nurses / Health Visitors other appropriate healthcare professionals when a patient dies?

It really does make a huge difference when dealing with someone who has recently been bereaved.

I can hear you saying that your staff are compassionate with all your patients – but they really need to have a “bit extra time” for those that have recently been bereaved.

True Story

I lost my dad 2 years ago. As you can imagine it was the most awful time and on top of our shock and sadness we had to get everything sorted out and we had to visit and telephone so many different organisations such as Hospitals, Funeral Directors, Banks, Solicitors, Florists, Utility companies, Pension agencies, Council,  ……..  the list went on and on.

I found that 99% of every  person that we dealt with to be compassionate, extremely helpful, and very understanding. They all had a policy in place to deal with a death. They had appropriate forms, they all knew exactly what they had to do. It really did help so much when we understandably upset confused and exhausted.

Every single one of them did as much as they could, and explained in full what would or had to be done. I cannot tell you how much stress this took off us as the family when dealing with so many agencies.

Unfortunately it was that 1% – that one person that was the most unhelpful,   and she was the only person that kept referring to my dad as the “deceased” unlike every other single person that referred to him by his name. I found my dad being called “the deceased” the most upsetting thing ever. I wanted to scream he is my dad and he has a name! But I just didn’t have it in me to speak up. I was exhausted. 

This particular person was really not very helpful – her attitude was uncaring and to to point of almost being rude in fact she made me feel very uncomfortable. She even sighed at one point when I asked a question that I was not sure about. 

It’s sad but when I think of all the people we dealt with over the weeks it is always the 1% – the one that was NOT helpful, NOT compassionate and NOT very understanding that comes to the front of my mind.

What a shame that had to happen. That 1% had to spoil it all.

I ask myself did she not have the right training; did she in fact have any training at all in dealing with such a delicate matter? Was she the right person to be dealing with such matters? She might be an excellent worker – but was she the right person to be dealing with customers?

So, when someone comes into your reception (especially the elderly) that has just lost a loved one, remember this, they will be extremely upset, confused, tired, and your surgery might be the umpteen place that they have been to visit that day or week.

So a little bit of compassion and a bit of time from your Receptionist will certainly help the patient in a big way.

Make sure you are never that 1% that sticks in someones mind – for all the wrong reasons.

See previous blogs:

1.    Special Needs Board

2.    When a Patient Dies

Posted in Communication Skills, Customer Care, Doctors Receptionists, Managers / Supervisors Training, Managers Training, Medical Receptionists, The Doctors, The Patients, The Receptionist, The Surgery, True Stories | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment