I always find it interesting to learn how other Practices operate. I used to attend a Practice Managers Group who held monthly meetings. Each Practice would take it in turns to host the meeting. A Practice Manager would take minutes and these would be distributed soon after the meeting. We would discuss all relevant matters in running our busy surgeries. I always found these meetings very interesting, helpful and I formed a good working relationship with the other Managers.
What I did find interesting was some of the Practices employed many of their reception staff that lived local to their Practice. Whilst other Practices had a policy not to employ any reception staff that lived local to their Practice.
At one of our meetings this was a subject that we discussed. It was surprising how the Managers all seen the advantages and disadvantages in both.
Employing staff that live local
- The Receptionists would know the area well. This can often be beneficial to patients and staff at the practice especially when a locum came to the Practice that would often not know the area.
- This could be beneficial when allocating house visit for the doctors or other health care professionals (this task was done by some receptionists at some of the Practices)
- Some Practice Managers like the fact that the receptionists are known by the patients and some felt that this could be a benefit. They felt that if a patient was known to the receptionist that they would be less likely to complain at the desk.
- The ability for the Receptionist to get into the Surgery easily in the event of bad weather – or if needed to do extra time to cover for sickness at short notice.
- Some patients are not very keen on people that they know having access to their medical notes.
- Some receptionists can often be “seen” to having favourite patients (*Scenario 1 see below)
- Receptionists can often find this difficult as patients that are known to them often expect more from the Receptionist.
Employing staff that do not live local
- Patients are not known to the Receptionists and therefore have no pressure on them from people that they know.
- The Reception Desk is often more “professional”. Often if a patient is known to a Receptionist idle chit-chat can often take place.
- The Receptionist does not always know the local area.
- Not being able to get to the surgery easily in the event of bad weather or in the event of having to cover for sickness at short notice.
- Not wanting to cover for just a short period of time (ie 2 hours etc)
Not long after the meeting when we discussed this I was in Reception and witnessed an incident where we employed a Receptionist that lived very close to the Surgery.
The Receptionist was chatting to a patient and it was pretty obvious that they knew each other. There was another patient standing just behind them. The conversation didn’t go on for very long but enough that both I and the other patient were aware that both knew each other very well.
The “friend” chatting to the Receptionist asked if there was an appointment available that morning and the Receptionist replied that there was one available in the next 10 minutes. The patient when and took a seat.
The next patient can to the desk and ask for an appointment that same day and they Receptionist told the patient that she had no appointments that day – they we were fully booked. The patient then asked why the patient in front had got an appointment and asked the Receptionist was it because she was a friend that she got an appointment. The patient did not look too impressed.
I felt at this point I had to go over and intervene. I asked if I could help. The Receptionist explained that the appointment she had in fact just given her “friend” was in fact a cancellation that had just be made moments before therefore freeing up an appointment. The Receptionist sitting close by confirmed that she in fact had just taken the cancellation. The patient was good enough to accept this explanation and made an appointment for another day.
This was discussed at the next Receptionists meeting and they all agree it could have looked like the patient was being “favoured” and given an appointment as they were known to the receptionist. The girls all agreed that from the other patients point of view it certainly did look like the “friend” was being favoured and given an appointment.
We all agreed although while it is nice to chat to patients and it was important that we continued to give our friendly service, there are times when friends come into the surgery that care has to be taken and that other patients were not given the impression that “friends” were given special treatment.
We all agreed that all patients should be treated in a professional manner and that included friends.
We used to employ a mixture of staff that lived both local and afar and I must say apart from that one incident it never really did cause any other problems.