Last Thursday I was approached from BBC Radio via my blog to do a live radio broadcast in response to a broadcast the previous evening. The previous evening there was a GP speaking about patients and the “stiff upper lip of the British” and that they should go and see their Doctor “sooner rather than later”.
The radio station received several replies from some “unhappy” listeners saying that they have often found it difficult to get appointments at their surgeries. They mentioned lack of appointments, and rude Receptionists.
I was asked along to talk about the role as a Receptionist. Whilst I didn’t have enough time to answer some of the emails sent to the radio station I would like to share a couple with you and what I feel would be a response I would have made.
LETTER FROM A MALE LISTENER
“Stiff upper lip? Certainly not.
Over crowded surgeries, unapproachable doctors (and receptionists) creaking overloaded health service not working on a Saturday YES YES YES”
My response would be
I agree that surgery clinics can often be extremely busy. Practices do acknowledge this and will try all avenues to spread the various clinics over the day/week. As the healthcare service continues to expand into general practice unfortunately the surgeries get busier. Many Practices offer baby clinics, various Nurse Clinics, minor surgery clinics, Health Visitors Clinics and many more and are often scheduled to run outside normal Doctors appointment clinics. Most Surgeries these days do have extremely pleasant waiting areas. Patients often have TV’s or a radio in the waiting room, magazines to read, an area for children, water drinks dispenser and other items hopefully making any waiting time as pleasant as they can. Many also have free wifi. Unlike not so long ago when you just had a waiting room and nothing else.
A busy surgery is often one that is offering several different healthcare services under one roof meaning patients do not have to travel to their local hospital for treatment.
Just because you might “see” a busy or “crowded” surgery does not mean it is not being run efficiently.
It saddens me to read that the gentleman finds the doctors and receptionists unapproachable – to this I cannot comment as I don’t have pacific details , if I was dealing with this gentleman at my surgery I would be asking in what way he found them unapproachable and would deal with it from there. Of course he also has the choice to move to another surgery if he is very unhappy with his present practice.
And as for not working on a Saturday – many surgeries that I know of certainly do work on a Saturday morning. But, is this gentleman aware that there is always the out of hours service and they are there every evening and weekend after the surgeries have closed and therefore he has access to either speak or see a GP or healthcare professional 24/7. Many surgeries are now open to accommodate people who are working and often open from 07.00 through to 20.00 – 5 days a week. A pretty good service I think!
LETTER FROM A FEMALE LISTENER
I phoned for an emergency appointment when I realised I was suffering from depression. I was so distressed that I blurted out that I had been having suicidal thoughts. The receptionists’ response was to repeat “sorry to hear that, you’ll have to phone back in the morning”.
My response would be
The patient I am sure was pretty distraught by this conversation. Only she knew just how bad she felt – the Receptionist had no way of knowing how bad she actually was – but she was saying she was having suicidal thoughts – bad enough in my opinion.
.My advice to her if she was refused an appointment was to ask if she could speak to a Doctor. In the event that there was no Doctor available to speak to her she should ask to speak to the Practice Manager or someone else in charge. As a patient if you feel that it is urgent enough that you need to see a Doctor that same day and the Receptionist cannot offer you an appointment ask to speak to someone about it or ask for a Doctor to call you back.
As a manager I would be alarmed if this had been a Receptionist at my Practice but I feel very confident that this would not have happen. All of our Receptionists would have received training in dealing calls similar to this.
This should never have happened. What is to say that there would not have been an appointment the following day? Why ask her to phone back again only to be told there are still no appointments. The patient requested an urgent appointment. That needed to be taken into consideration straight away. The Receptionist didn’t even have to ask why she needed the appointment, the patient explained why she needed the urgent appointment.
Someone suffering with depression and admitting that she was having suicidal thoughts should have had alarm bells ringing.
If the Receptionist really could not offer the patient an appointment that same day she should have tried her utmost to either speak to a Doctor or nurse and ask their advice. In the event she was going to get a Doctor to call the patient back the Receptionist should not have let the patient end the call without taking a contact number first. (Even if the patient has a number on her records always check – because it has happened many times that patients change their telephone number and do not notify the surgery)
If Surgery had finished and perhaps there was no doctor on the premises (lunchtime) then the Receptionist should have called the duty doctor for advice.
Receptionists are dealing with calls like this on a regular basis, especially for “emergency” and “same day” appointments, it is a difficult task for them as they only have so many appointments that they can offer to patients on a daily basis. A good Receptionist will often be able to give a helpful solution to the patient by either offering an alternative appointment/day or perhaps offering an appointment with another healthcare professional i.e. the nurse or getting someone to call the patient back.
But at the end of the day if the patient insists they need an urgent appointment and the Receptionist is unable to give them one then the Receptionist needs to speak to her Senior Receptionist or perhaps a Doctor for advice.
And then there was a letter from a listener that goes to show that there are many patients out there that are more than happy with the service that we give.
LETTER FROM A MALE LISTENER
Can I – as a patient – stand up for those receptionists who are anything but rude, especially those in our local surgery in Hillsborough, Co. Down who are simply exceptional. As a family with two young children we have all had our fair share of visits and always been treated with the utmost courtesy and care.
Whilst we take on board the negative comments , and hopefully deal with them in the appropriate way, it is always nice to get positive feedback. You don’t know how much that means to staff to hear that they are appreciated and the job they are doing are doing it well. Everyone thrives on good feedback.
As a Receptionist and a Manager I am still always overwhelmed at the positive comments and feedback that we get on a regular basis from the patients. This is what makes the job so very special.