Feedback on Comments from Receptionists To Previous Posts


Over the past couple of days I have had some comments to various posts. The general comments have come from Receptionists talking about areas that they have some concerns with.

How would your surgery deal with such issues?

1.       One point that was raised was often one Receptionist is left in Surgery at the end of the day with perhaps just one Doctor on. Their concerns were what they should do when an “urgent / emergency” call comes in.

My reply to that would be while the Receptionist is there to assist the Doctor and deal with calls and patients coming into the surgery accordingly if in the event of an emergency call or patient at the desk the Receptionist should have clear guidelines on what she should do with such a call or patient at the desk.

Their Practice should have clear guidelines in place and every Receptionist should have access to speak to the Doctor in the event of an urgent call or a patient at the desk.

If the patient is on the phone she should have access to talk to the doctor and ask for their advice – or if the patient comes into the Surgery the Receptionist should be able to talk to the Doctor away from the front desk and again ask for advice. The patient should never hear a Receptionist speak to a Doctor about such a matter at the front desk as often the Doctor at the other end of the telephone can be heard by the patient.

The Receptionist should never be put in a position that she has to refuse an urgent appointment for anyone.

2.     Many Surgeries now offer telephone consultations. Patients often have to wait in all day to get a call back from the Doctor i.e. a patient telephone at 9.30 in the morning and often does not get a call from the Doctor until 6.00 pm that evening.

Many Surgeries are operating a Telephone Consultation. This is where the Doctor will telephone the patient, give appropriate advice and if needed offer an appointment or a visit. If this system works well it really does benefit the patient and the Surgery. If it doesn’t work well then it leads to frustrated patients who in turn phone and having a go at the Receptionists.

No one should be expected to wait from 9.30 to 6.00 for a call back from the Doctor. People lead very busy lives these days and certainly no one should be expected to wait that long – unless they have pacifically requested a call back at that time.

There should be some sort of system that if a patient calls in the morning for a telephone consultation then they should be called back with an approximate time – if this can’t be given they should at least be called back after morning surgery. Again in the afternoon if a time cannot be given they should be given a call back before the end of evening surgery.

Patients for some reason are reluctant to try telephone consultations – and by not getting it right it will never work at your Surgery. Patient’s needs some approximate time that the Doctor is going to call them back. It has to work well for it to be successful.

Ask yourself how would you feel if that happened to you?

3.     Another comment that is raised on a frequent basis. Patients have to hold on the phone and can often be holding for up to half an hour (or more!).  Receptionists are being told they have to deal with patients as briefly as they can – which results in the Receptionist being accused of being short or rude! The poor Receptionist just can’t get it right sometimes!

Waiting 30 minutes to have you call answered is simply not good enough. What happens if one of these calls is urgent – I have had experience where we have had emergency calls coming through to the Surgery.  Elderly patients would rather phone the doctors than an ambulance, people in a panic will often phone the surgery for advice rather than an ambulance. As a Receptionist I have had to phone many an ambulance from a call that I have taken.

But please think of the Receptionist. She can only take one call at a time. It might be a long call from an elderly person who needs a bit of time, someone who has a couple of a appointments to make – and many more reasons why the Receptionist just cannot “rush” the call. But all the time she is dealing with such a call others are waiting to get through – and getting very frustrated at the same time often resulting in the Receptionist getting it in “the neck” when she finally answers the next call.

Again, if this is happening at your Surgery and patients are regularly holding on for long period of times you need to have a look at the system in your Reception area.

A few points that could help ease the pressure could be:

  • Not having Receptionists answering telephones at the front desk especially at the busy times.
  • Not having telephones answered in Reception at all – have them answered in an “admin” office. This way the Receptionist/Receptionists are just dealing with telephone calls and not both calls and patients at the front desk.
  • Operate a “switchboard” system at the busy times. Have one Receptionist diverting calls to different receptionist’s i.e one for home visits / one for prescriptions /one for appointments.

Try different systems – one of them might just work at your Surgery.

It is so important that telephones are answered and I can see from both sides. Receptionists are dealing with forever ringing telephones. The patients are on the end of the phone and all they can hear is the ringing tone and no one bothering to answer it! Both lead to frustration.

Often disorganisation in Receptionist can cause stress with the Receptionist and the patients. Look at your Reception area and look at ideas on how you can change and improve on the system you might have now.

Does your Practice have regular Reception Team Meetings? Do they listen to the Receptionists? After all it is the Receptionists that are dealing with these incidents on a daily basis. They can quite often come up with an easy solution.

A Receptionist is an ambassador for the Practice, and therefore should be able to give feedback on how they feel their Reception area is working.

We talk about communication and patient care. Communication also works between employers and their staff.

If you do not have Reception Team Meetings perhaps you should suggest it to your Practice Manager or Staff Manager/GP. You might actually come up with solutions that will help improve your working day and help the practice and more importantly help the patients get a better service. Something we all want to do.


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