Motivating Your Staff

One of the most important aspects of being a Manager is to try to keep both the GP’s and staff happy. How can you help the receptionists/Secretaries/Administrators work well in their often thankless task of trying to please both patients and doctors, and at the same time find job satisfaction for themselves?

Motivating staff is an essential part of any manager’s work. Keeping a “happy” team happy is far easier than trying to get a negative team positive again.

A full contract of employment is the first step of ensuring that the individual knows just what conditions to expect in their work. A comprehensive job description and regular appraisals should follow. However, the whole process of assessment and support has to develop progressively so that the individual continues to feel a valued member of the team. Most employees seek not only an interesting job but usually like to feel that what they are doing is worthwhile and also that they had job security.

Giving the opportunity for staff to learn new skills and gain wider experience of all areas of reception work which should help them feel that they are not simply standing still.

Staff are more likely to be motivated if they receive recognition and praise when it is deserved. As a manager I would regularly thank my staff.

The manager is not the only one who can offer praise, however. The GP’s, other members of staff and even the patients can all help in making individuals feel valued if they also offer their occasional approval or thanks.

Why not ask one of the GP’s along to a staff meeting every so often to offer a “thanks” to staff. Staff are happy if it is identified that they are appreciated and told they are doing a good job.

Staff will work better if the management of the practice is not only consistent by also seen to be fair. Treat everyone the same.

The variety of work within general practice can be a motivating factor for many of the staff and the fact that much of their time will be spent dealing with people (in itself both challenging and rewarding) is often seen as a positive benefit. Staff seem to value a sense of belonging and strong team leadership.

Job satisfaction is important and setting achievable goals for individual members of staff is an integral part of enabling them to experience job satisfaction – this can be done through a staff appraisal. You must recognise, however, that people will have their own goals as well as organisational ones and when the two coincide you are more likely to have a contented and able worker.

Keeping staff well-informed is essential – this can be done at regular team meetings. It gives you the chance as a manager to talk to the team, answer any questions and put things right if there are any misunderstandings.

Rewarding your staff with a “thank you” is important. There are other ways of doing this. Do you have a staff Christmas Party, or perhaps a Summer Party? Perhaps you might give your staff a yearly bonus. At one of the surgeries I worked at we closed the surgery at lunchtime – and sometimes we had a local craft person come in to do a demonstration – and sell their goods this was particularly well received around Christmas time when often the girls could buy up present for Christmas.  We would get in some sandwiches and it gave the girls a bit of time to relax and have some fun. This always went down very well.

It is most important to let your staff know just how much they are appreciated.

Receptionists Training: Methods of Communication

Communication is the way in which we transmit information, knowledge thoughts and ideas from one person to another or to a group of people. In any Practice large or small, communication is vital for the Practice to function effectively.

The four main methods of communication are:

  1. The spoken word (direct – fact to face)
  2. The written word, e.g. letters, emails, diagrams, posters, notice boards etc.
  3. The use of telephone systems, including fax machines, answer machines, etc.
  4. Non-verbal communication (body language)

Communication – internal and external

Communication may be either internal or external. The following are examples of written communication.

Written messages

Secretaries and Receptionists are always conveying urgent and non-urgent messages from patients or other professionals. It is vital that the messages do not get mislaid and that appropriate action is taken. They should contain:

  • The date and time the message was received
  • The name, address and telephone number of the caller
  • The name of the intended recipient of the message
  • A clearly written and concise message
  • The name, or initials, of the person taking the message.


A memorandum (memo) is an internal written communication which may be used to convey short messages and information to individuals or to all the health care team. Your Surgery will, no doubt, use a memorandum form.

Notice Boards

Notice boards can be used to convey information to visitors to the Surgery. Notice boards should be positioned so that they are readily visible and accessible to all who are expected to see the notice board. Notice boards should be relevant and kept up to date. Perhaps you could nominate a member of the reception team to keep the notice board up to date. Use the notice board to inform patients of important dates i.e. Flu Clinics, Baby immunisations, Asthma Clinics etc.

Practice Leaflets/Booklet

Having a Practice booklet will let your new patients (and existing patients) know what goes on in your Surgery – opening times, healthcare clinics, and emergency contact numbers – especially how to contact the out of hours. Always make sure your Practice booklet is kept updated.

Leaflets can be issued when you have an event in the surgery that is not in your practice booklet.

Practice Protocols and Procedures

Your Practice should have written protocols to communicate to members of the team. Written protocols contain standards of quality and should be written so that all members of the team involved in the task fully understand the procedures and thus achieve objectives. Protocols are important to a new member of staff.  Protocols should be reviewed and updated on a regular basis.

External written communication

Letters remain the most widely used method of written communication. Secretaries should be trained to provide a high standard of letter writing and have some knowledge of medical terminology. Letters are used to communicate with health authorities, PCT’s, Health Boards, medical professionals and patients. For example a GP write referral letters to hospital consultants, hospitals send discharge letters and reports back to GP’s.

Computers now provide a networking facility linking hospitals, PCT’s and health authorities, laboratories and medical practices.

Telephone skills

Telephone callers only have tone of voice and words to go upon. Any frustrations felt at the time of answering the phone will be conveyed to the caller in the tone of voice

Understandably by 10.30 on a busy Monday morning it might be “difficult” for a stressed receptionist to make an incoming caller “feel welcome”.  Difficult, but not impossible.  How does your Surgery work in regards to answering the telephone? Is the telephoned answered at the front desk, along with booking patients in and out? Perhaps you should have a Receptionist answering the telephone away from the desk at the busy periods so they can give the caller their full attention.

Telephone enquiries

Secretaries and receptionists receive numerous telephone enquiries during the course of their working day. They may be typing lengthy reports, running a busy surgery or clinic or retrieving data from the computer; but the telephone enquiries and requests continue! Maintaining the balance between conflicting demands is part of the job, and the telephone caller should never be given the impression that you the receptionist is too flustered or annoyed at being interrupted and too busy to deal with their request.

  • Answer the telephone as promptly as possible
  • Announce the practice, and give your name (I suggest first name is sufficient)
  • Establish the caller’s identity and try to help.
  • Deal with the call as efficiently as you can – if you need time, suggest you call them back – this frees up the phone for another call, and saves asking the caller to hold on.

Golden rules when using the telephone

  • ALWAYS be polite
  • Do not eat or drink while you are speaking on the telephone (or at the reception desk)
  • Do not hold two conversations at the same time
  • Return to the caller at regular intervals if you are keeping them on hold.
  • If you are unable to help the caller yourself, call on someone who can – if necessary take their details and call them back.

Dealing with people face to face

In contrast to telephone communication where the only indicators are words and tone of voice, in a face to face encounter there is additional dimension of “non-verbal” communication. These are the signals that are given out and picked up, sometimes subconsciously, but which cause a reaction every bit as strong as to the words and tone.

The medical secretary or receptionist also needs to constantly bear in mind the fact that patients are likely not to not feel well, be anxious about what is going to be done to them, what the doctor may say and concerned about the effect of their illness on the family. These feeling make patients stressed and therefore more sensitive to off-hand treatment. From the moment they are dealt with they need to feel that they are the only and only concern of the receptionist.



Doctors Receptionist Training: Elder Abuse

Unfortunately we are hearing too much on elder abuse these days. It is and has been in the headlines far too often, on TV in documentaries and even has been a big storyline in Emmerdale recently.

The vast majority of older people live full and active lives, enjoying good health, happiness and independence. Most older people play a valuable role in their communities and society generally. This is a cause for celebration. However, a small number of older people may experience mistreatment, neglect or abuse, and they may also experience more than one form of abuse at any given time.

As a receptionist you will often be privileged to information from patients they that might not chose to share with anyone else. I can recall many conversations with patients that shared some of their most inner secrets, fears and concerns.  If you have a good bond with patients they will often tell the receptionist something they might not want to tell the Doctor or Nurse.

As a receptionist will get to know your patients very well. You will chat to them on the phone, in person when they come to the surgery, and you even might know them if you live local to the Surgery. They will see you as a friendly face and someone who plays an important role in the Surgery.  You will find that you will bond really well with certain patients.

If you are in any doubt that a patient might be in some kind of danger, abuse or other then please share your concerns with a Doctor or a nurse at your Surgery. Do not discuss any of your concerns with anyone outside of the Surgery. Please remember patient confidentiality.

If you are a recepitonist in a Hospital  speak to your Manager/Team leader about your concerns.

What is Elder Abuse?

“A single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person or violates their human and civil rights”

Types of Elder Abuse

There are several forms of abuse, any or all of which may be perpetrated as the result of deliberate intent, negligence or ignorance.

Physical Abuse includes hitting, slapping, pushing, misuse of medication, or inappropriate restraint.

Psychological abuse includes emotional abuse, threats of harm or abandonment, deprivation of contact, humiliation, intimidation or coercion.

Neglect and actions of omission include ignoring medical or physical care needs; failure to provide access to appropriate health, social care or educational services, the withholding of medication.

Discriminatory abuse includes ageism, racism, sexism that based on a person’s disability, and other forms of harassment, slurs or similar treatment

Financial or material abuse includes theft, fraud or exploitation; pressure in connection with wills, power of attorney, property, inheritance or financial transactions; or the misuse or misappropriation of property, possessions or benefits.

Who might abuse?

Any person or organisation may be guilty of abuse. Most often it is someone well-known to the older person, for example, a family member (as in the story line in Emmerdale), a relative, friend or care provider – a relationship where there is an expectation of trust. In some cases, organisations, through poor work practices or lack of appropriate training for staff in dealing and interacting with and understanding older people can unwittingly allow abuse to happen. Advantage may also be taken of the older person by unscrupulous individuals, such as bogus traders and callers – and of course we have all heard of such sad stories.

 Where can abuse happen?

 Abuse can take place anywhere; most abuse takes place in the home, whether the person is living along or with family. It may also occur within residential, day-care or hospital settings, other places assumed to be safe, or in a public place.

If you hear of a patient that maybe suffering abuse talk to someone you can trust in the Practice – the patient’s doctor or the Practice Nurse or Practice Nurse.

Elder people often cannot stand up for themselves; perhaps they are too frightened to tell anyone –  they often do not want to “worry anyone” such as their doctor or family members. Sometimes they do not even realise that they are suffering abuse of any kind. But one thing is for sure – elder people deserve respect, and help when needed.

How would YOU feel if it was your mum or dad, aunty or uncle, or elderly neighbour that was being abused. You would want it dealt with if it was I’m sure.

Receptionists Be Aware – You Could Be Heard!

I read an article in the press yesterday about a woman stating that she had been humiliated by staff at her Doctor’s surgery after they allegedly left a message on her answerphone mocking her looks.

She said that someone from the practice called her and left a message on her phone and said that she could hear a group of woman in the background laughing at her.

Now I do not know the full story –so therefore can not judge – but how awful for her if this had happened.  I  had a similar “complaint” against one of the surgeries that I managed some year ago. Let me share what happened.

I took a telephone call from a woman claiming that when she had phoned the surgery earlier that morning requesting a visit from the Doctor for her sick husband  she said the receptionist had laughed down the phone at her – the receptionist had asked if he could get to the surgery instead of having a home visit. The woman said that her husband was too poorly to come to the surgery and asked if the doctor could call – she said that the receptionist laughed again, and she could hear laughter in the background which she felt was obviously directed at her.

Although I took this complaint seriously I could not believe that any one of my team of receptionists would have done this. I promised the woman that I would investigate the complaint and get back to her.

But there is that rare occasion where you are let down by a member of your team, and if this was the case then the Receptionist or Receptionists  would have been dealt with appropriately.

I went down to reception – I check the visit book to see who had taken the call and entered the visit. I was gobsmacked – the receptionist that took the call was not only one of our most senior receptionist she was one of the most professional  receptionists that the surgery had. I couldn’t believe that she could have done this But I had to investigate this complaint and hear the Receptionists version.

I called her up to my office. I discussed the conversation that I had with the woman – this Receptionist was obviously upset –  and denied that this had happened. We went over the call and the Receptionist filled me in on how the call had gone. It happened that the woman was pretty rude to the Receptionist when she asked if the patient was able to get to surgery (something we did when patients called for a visit – as sometimes we could turn a visit into an appointment freeing the Doctors to visit those that could not get to the surgery). The Receptionist said she handled the call in a professional manner and did not retaliate to the woman.

The Receptionists said that once the woman had said her husband was in not fit state to come the surgery she took the visit as she would normally do. She again denied that she had laughed. She was quite upset by this allegation.

I went down to discuss the incident with the rest of the team – as I walked into reception I was greeted with 3 girls standing laughing at a joke that someone had just told. But while they were doing that there was someone directly in front of them on the telephone. Could this have happened earlier on – perhaps the woman had heard background laughter and assumed it was directed at her.

I spoke to the girls, they all agreed with the Receptionist that she had taken the call in a professional manner as she always did – but they did confess that “perhaps” they had been having a laugh at the time. They agreed that morning surgery had just finished and it had been a bit quiet in reception.

I telephoned the woman back – I had to be very careful in how I handled the call as I did not want the woman to think that I was calling her a liar. I asked if maybe she had misunderstood and perhaps had heard some background laughter – something that was not directed at her – she disagreed  – but I did hold my own and said that the receptionist that had taken the call would never had done that – I felt that I had to stand by the Receptionist as I was sure that there had been a misunderstanding and she had heard background laughter.

I assured the woman that I would be speaking to the whole team and raising the issue and I promised her that we would look at our system and every effort would be put in place to ensure that this would not happen again.

I followed up the telephone conversation in a letter again apologising for any upset she might have experienced. I enclosed a complaints form if she felt she needed to take the matter further – I am pleased to say she did not.  I logged the incident in the normal in case this incident might be raised at another time.

This is when I decided to sit on the other side of the desk to see what could be heard from the Reception area and especially for patients that might be on the other end of the telephone.

Please read my blog to see how this exercise was beneficial to me and my team

The Other Side of the Desk

What was learned from this experience is that Reception needs to be kept quiet at all times, laughter can be misunderstood and certain conversation that could be heard in the waiting room by patients could cause upset.

An example of this was a group of Receptionists one morning was discussing a programme on the telly the evening before – it was about a woman who had breast cancer, the girls went into the programme in great details all giving their opinion – and unknown to them there was a patient sitting in the waiting room that has just been diagnosed with breast cancer. The patient was obviously upset with what she heard.

So while you want everyone to enjoy their day, and have a laugh there is a time and place and the main Reception area should be kept professional at all times.

At all times you as the Receptionist has a duty to provide the best possible service to your patients and the dignity that they deserve.

Repeat Prescription Collection

Repeat prescriptions are a big part of the daily workload in a GP Practice. Patients depend on getting them on a regular basis and it is vital that they are correct and issued within the 24/48 hour practice policy.

Patients have never had it easier to ensure that they get their request for a repeat prescription in on time for it to be ready for them to collect. Here are some of the ways that patients can request a repeat prescription (not all of these options might be suitable for your surgery)

  • Bringing the repeat prescription into the surgery 24/48 hours prior to collection (and if the surgery is closed the repeat prescription can be posted through the letterbox)
  • Dropping off their prescription at their local chemist who will then bring the prescription along to the Surgery.
  • Having their repeat prescription delivered to their local chemist for them to collect
  • Requesting a prescription via telephone (not all surgeries have this facility)
  • Emailing a request via the Surgery email (not all surgeries have this facility)
  • Sending in a request through the post (ensure that patients enclose a stamped addressed envelope for its return)

The above has made it a lot easier for patients that are working to be able to request their repeat prescriptions in time – a visit to the surgery is not always necessary.  Most Surgeries are opened from early morning to late afternoon/evening to enable patients to collect repeat prescriptions, and if this is not suitable the patient can provide a stamped addressed envelope for its return.

So, why is it that patient STILL continuing on a regular daily basis to come rushing in demanding a repeat prescription there and then?  As a Receptionist you will know exactly what I mean. You will find the patient will stand at the desk demanding their repeat prescription, and telling you that if you do not give it to them NOW they will probably die! Yes it happens, and of course we are not in a position to refuse them their medication and the patient knows that.

And what you will find it will be the same people month in and month out that are doing this every time, and more often than not it will be people who are not working and have plenty of time to come in on other days – preferably with plenty of notice.

What the patent does not realise is the extra work that this “urgent” repeat prescription can cause.

One Surgery that I worked in could have up to 160 repeat prescriptions to process ever day. This would involve a prescription clerk processing the prescriptions, flagging up any queries with the doctors, phoning hospitals to query changes to patient’s medications, and updating the computer system for patients that needed to come in for checks i.e. Asthma, Blood Pressure and Diabetics etc.

The prescriptions would then have to be checked and signed by the doctor and when that had been done them all files into alphabetical order ready for collection. This is not a 5 minute job.

So, when a patient comes in demanding their prescription there and then this is what it takes to get this prescription done

  • The receptionist will have to generate the prescription which means that she will have to put aside the work she is already doing.
  • The Receptionist then has to go and stand outside a Doctors room to wait on a patient coming out before she can ask the Doctor to sign the prescription. Any Receptionist having to do this will tell you that they could be standing outside a room for anything up to 15 minutes.
  • This then makes a shortage of receptionists in reception – causing patient to wait longer to be seen or worse still the telephones not being answered.

And what is unfair is the patient that is not following Practice policy is actually being put first and those patients that are following the policy are waiting 24/48 hours when in fact they could have done exactly the same thing.

How would your Surgery cope if you had half of your patients demanding repeat prescriptions in such a way?

This was highlighted as becoming a problem in one of the surgeries I worked in. The Receptionists seemed to spend more time standing outside the Doctors rooms waiting on “urgent” prescriptions being signed, and the Doctors were getting pretty fed up being asked to sign and check these requests on a daily basis.

I discussed this issue at a Team meeting – and it was agreed that we could not refuse a patient their prescription as they needed their medication. And we all agreed that there were often genuine cases where people had run out and not realised it and these we fully understood – what we needed to try to solve was the same patients that were coming in on a regular basis demanding their prescriptions there and then.

So, we agreed on a policy which we implemented and it worked.

We agreed when a patient came into the surgery “demanding” their repeat prescription that we would explain our policy of 24/48 hours notice, but would tell the patient that on this occasion we would get their prescription done – but it would not be ready until after 4.30 that same day.  This meant that the patient had to come back to the surgery to collect the prescription and hopefully make them think twice next time and hopefully start using the correct system.

Of course we would not have done this is someone did have difficulty getting back, or if they were disabled  – but it was not these patients that were causing us the problem  – it was often fit or young patients that could quite easily come back later on that day. It was not our aim to refuse or be difficult but to try to re educate these patients so that everyone was given the same service.

To begin with we had patients that were not happy – after all they were used to getting it done there and then. But this system did work – those that were genuine were only too happy to call back again at 4.30 and those that were taking advantage soon realised that perhaps they should get their repeat prescription in 24/48 hours earlier.

Within a couple of months the only requests we got were from the odd few patients that did have genuine reasons to request as urgent prescription.

A Cry For Help

It was a normal Wednesday morning and it was getting towards lunchtime. There was a Health Visitors Clinic going on at the time and there were mums and dads in the waiting room with their little ones waiting to be seen.  Often this clinic overruns and we would have to close for lunch leaving the Health Visitor to let the patients out of the building.

Most of the doctors had gone out on their visits – there was one just finishing off his paperwork at the back of reception. Some of the receptionists had taken an early lunch, so it was me another receptionist and the Practice Manager who was in her office.

Five minutes before we were due to close the Surgery for lunch a young lad about 23 years of age came up to the reception desk. I could tell that he was very agitated – he asked to see a Doctor.

I knew that the doctor doing his paperwork had visits to do and a full surgery to come back to that afternoon and would not appreciate being asked to see this patient at this point – I felt sure it was not urgent. The Doctor was in the background and could hear the conversation and did not intervene so I felt right in explaining to the young man that there were not doctors available at that time as they were all out on their visits.

I checked on the computer and saw we had a cancellation later on that afternoon for 4.30. I asked the young man if he would like that appointment. He started pacing the reception area cursing and swearing.

He then started to shout and throw his arms around – I could see the patients in the waiting room ushering their little ones towards them. They started looking worried. It was obvious that this patient was getting very aggressive and giving some cause for concern.

At the point the Doctor doing is paperwork picked up his visit sheet and left the building! The other receptionist went to the back of the reception area and telephoned the Health Visitor who came and took the patients in the waiting room into her office.

All of a sudden was alone in the reception area with this young man – who was now getting more angry and aggressive. He was shouting that he needed to see a Doctor and NOW! He then went to rip the telephone off the wall shouting if he didn’t see a Doctor immediately he would go outside and throw himself in front of a car.

He started shouting that he needed to call his girlfriend but did not have any money. He then slammed into the telephone on the wall again.

At this point I had to do something – I was hoping that the other receptionist had gone to the Practice Managers office and they were phoning the police and the duty doctor on call that day. I hoped that no one else would come into the Surgery at that point.

But at this moment in time it was me and him, and I had to avoid any more damage or worse.

The only thing I felt I could do was talk to the young man.

In a firm but soft voice I asked him to come and talk to me – I was thankful for the high reception desk that was between the two of us.  I also stood back so he could not grab me over the desk.

I told him if he stopped I would let him use the reception telephone. He stopped and asked if I would let him use the phone.  I passed the phone over to him and he dialled his girlfriend.

He spoke to her and she obviously calmed him down. The call finished and he handed me back the telephone and said thank you! He was starting to calm down.

I asked him if he was ok. He started crying. He then poured out his troubles – he had been taking drugs and had been trying to come off them and was finding it very difficult. He had a young daughter who he was not allowed to see because of his drug habit and because of her he was trying to be drug free. He had a row with his girlfriend that same morning and she had told him that it was over between them. He had just come to the end of his tether.

He said that he had spoken to his social worker that morning and she was not of much help (I did not go into details) and he felt that everyone was against him, and he needed help. But no one was helping. He felt that he needed drugs to get him thorough this, but he was fighting against it – but said he didn’t know how much longer he could do so he said he was really struggling. He felt by threatening to throw himself under a car that someone might do something to help him. He said that he would do it if it  would get him the help he needed.

I actually started feeling sorry for this young man – he was screaming out for help – I admit not going the right way about it – but it was obvious that he was frightened and very confused at this point.

I started chatting to him (I cannot even remember what the conversation was now) but he seemed to calm right down. I stood there with him until the duty doctor came back and took him into his room.

The police arrived shortly afterwards and after speaking to the duty doctor decided they were not going to arrest the young man.

The doctor admitted the patient into the local drug rehab centre for 2 weeks – the doctor said that the young man was almost at breaking point.

After lunch all was calm and everything back to normal.

Then three weeks later I was out the back doing some admin work when one of my colleagues called me and said that there was a patient at the desk asking for me. I went up to the desk and there was the young man. He  said that he wanted to thank me for all my help when he was in last. He said that all he wanted was someone to listen to him and that I had been the first person to have done that. He apologised for the upset that he might have caused and promised that it would never happen again.

He went on to say that he had got fantastic help and support in the drug rehab centre and the doctor here in the Practice and for that he and his girlfriend were on great terms and he was in the process of agreeing access to seeing his daughter. He was one very happy man.

He then presented me with a box of chocolates.

Whenever that young man came into the surgery from that day on he was always pleasant, friendly and very polite.

Sometimes people just want to be listened to and not judged.

Of course it could have turned out a lot worse. Does your Practice have a protocol on dealing with such an incident? Have your Receptionist had training on dealing difficult situations?

Does your Reception desk have a panic button?



How do you give out repeat prescriptions at your Surgery?

Do you keep them in a secure box? Are they kept near to the reception desk for easy access to give to patients when they are collecting them? Do you lock your repeat prescription box  during the lunchtime and at night? If not you should.

There have been occasions  (not many I am pleased to say) where the prescription box was kept in easy reach of the reception desk and they have been snatched – so always ensure that the box is kept a good distance from the desk to avoid this from happening.

Do you give our prescriptions to people other than the patient? Of course you do – prescriptions are collected for patients by family members, neighbours or carers. In today’s society people work or might be housebound and often cannot get into collect their own prescription – so we all accept that people other than the patient will come in to collect a prescription.

We all like to make things easier for our patients – after all that is what we are there for – we get to know our patients and will often go out of our way to help in any way we can. But sometimes you might think you are doing the right thing – but perhaps you are not – you need to stop and thing before you maybe “offer” that extra help.

Here are two true stories that actually happened to me when I was a Receptionist. On both occasions I thought I was doing the right thing. I thought I was being helpful when in fact I wasn’t – it actually could have backfired and cause a problem. Let me share them with you.

True Story  1

Mrs Joan Morgan came into the Surgery one morning to collect her normal repeat prescription. I went to the box to get the prescription and seen that her daughter Miss Catherine Morgan’s prescription was there too waiting to be collected. Mrs Morgan did not ask for her daughter’s prescription, but had in the past collected a prescription for her as did her daughter for her.

 I knew that Mrs Morgan and her daughter had a good relationship and lived together and they were often in the surgery at the same time. So I had no hesitation is asking her did she want to take Catherine’s prescription at the same time. She said she would.

I gave her the two prescriptions – she looked at the prescription and with a gasp she looked at me and said “I didn’t know Catherine was taking the birth pill”. I realised then that Catherine had not asked her mum to collect her prescription for a reason – the reason being she did not want her mum knowing she was on the birth pill. I realised I had actually broken patient confidentiality. I spoke to my Reception Supervisor and she advised me to telephone Catherine to explain what I had done. Thankfully Catherine was extremely good about it and said that she would speak to her mother when she got home.

It is times like this when you have a good relationship with the patients that you are able to telephone them, explain what has happened and they will understand that you were only trying your best.  I found that by having a good relationship patients they are far more understanding. They know that you are trying to help. You will also find there will be fewer complaints.

True Story 2

Mr Joe Allan came in again one morning asking for his repeat prescription. I went to the box and seen that his son Ben Allan’s repeat prescription was there too.  Aware of what had happened before I checked Ben’s prescription – it was for his asthma inhaler – and again his dad had often picked up this prescription for him. So I thought this time I would be safe – there was nothing confidential on there so I asked Joe if he wanted to take Ben’s prescription as well. He said he would.

Then at 12.55 (five minutes before we closed for lunch) Ben came flying into reception. He asked for his repeat prescription for his inhaler – he had run out and was feeling a bit poorly and needed it. My heart sank – there was no Doctor on the premises as they were away doing their home visits. Ben explained that he was come up to the surgery in his lunch hour and would not have time to go home to get his prescription from his dad.

Luckily enough we had a very good understanding with the chemist across the road from the Surgery and I telephoned them and they said that they would issue Ben with an inhaler as he was a regular customer there and had his records, but on the understanding that he or his dad dropped his original prescription in to them the following day.

Ben dashed over to collect his inhaler

So there are two different examples where I thought I was helping a patient but in fact it led to them having problems because of it.

So from then on in – unless someone  specifically asked for someone’s prescription it stayed well and truly in the box until it was requested.