Receptionists Training: How To Identify People that Have Difficulties Reading and Writing.

How would you identify and deal with a patient that might have problems with reading and writing – and not embarrass them?

I have seen many patients embarrassed by a receptionist insisting that the “complete” the form in front of them.


  • They will often become agitated or look uncomfortable when given a form to complete
  • They might go very red in the face with embarrassment
  • They will try to make an excuse ask if they can bring the form back at another time
  • They might say they can not wait and will fill it in next time (when they can bring
    someone back with them)

And the most often used excuse is:

They have left their glasses at home!

Many of the above could indicate that the person had problems completing the form. For
whatever reason do not embarrass the person by insisting they complete the form.

If the form can be taken away and completed and brought back all well and good, but as I
well know many of these forms never come back again. So I appreciate the importance of getting the forms completed there and then.


If you have reason to believe that the person is having difficult completely the form you

  •  Be very discreet
  • Never ask the person if they have problems with reading and writing
  • Never snatch the form back and say “give it to me”
  • Offer to help complete the form
  • Try and put them at ease – if they say they do not have their glasses just tell them that it is ok and that lots of patients do the same and you are more than happy to
    help complete the form.
  • Put the patient at ease by saying that it might be quicker for you to do the form
    because you know what parts have to be filled in.

You will often find by showing kindness and not judging the person will in fact tell you
that they have problems in completing forms. If they do tell them its fine – and they we get many request for help with filling in forms.

Explain  to them that you would be more than happy to help again, and that they should ask for you or another member of staff to help complete the next necessary form.

Ask the person if you want them to make a note of it on their patient notes – so in future they are not asked to complete a form again at the desk. Many are happy for you to do this. It also helps other team members know of their disability in not being able to read or write.

Every patient should be treated with respect at all times.


Receptionist Training: A Quick Confidentiality Checklist.

All  members of staff should have appropriate training in confidentiality and this should
be reinforced on a regular basis. Reinforce the message regularly.

Design  your waiting area so that the public cannot overhear or see other patient information.

Make sure patients cannot read previous patients records on your computer screen.
Make sure your computer is facing you and not the patient.

When talking to a patient at the front desk make sure that you are not giving out personal information that can be overheard.

Remember when a visitor to your surgery signs the visitors book they must be asked to
read the confidentiality statement before signing. ALL visitors including, contractors and other outside agencies should be signing the visitor’s  book.  The visitor’s book is also used in  Fire Evacuations (please see blog patient Confidentiality – Taking Responsibility

Before  using a fax, make sure that the receiving machine is secure – in sending an urgent
fax also ask for confirmation that the fax has been received.

Make sure your fax machine is in a secure area. (for example the reception area/office – and it should be in a room that is lockable.

All patient records should be kept in a lockable cabinet.

When disclosure is required in circumstances that ar out of the ordinary please seek advise from your Manager.

Do  not discuss clinical management with a colleague where members of the public
could overhear the conversation.

If  necessary, check the identity of the telephone caller who requests medical information
about a patient.  If unsure take a name  and number and ring them back

When disclosure is requested in circumstances that are out of the ordinary seek
advice from your Senior Receptionist or a senior member of staff.

If  you are unsure – please ask!

Receptionists Training/Patient Confidentality – Taking Responsibility

Everyone working within the Health Care Sector is bound by patient confidentiality.

Every member of staff should be expected to sign a confidentiality statement when they first start working for you. Confidentiality is vital when you are working with information regarding a patient.

You must only ever disclose patient information in the patient’s best interests.

How many people do you think has access to patient information?

here are a list of some of those healthcare professionals:




HCA (Health Care Assistants)


Ambulance Technician

Other Healthcare Professionals (ie physiotherapists, dietitians, counsellors etc)

Out of Hours Personal



Administrative staff

NHS Managers

Cleaners  (They might see or hear patient information when carrying out their jobs. )

If you are working in a Surgery do you get visitors/workmen to sign a confidentiality statement when they come into your Practice?

There is every possibility that they will see or hear something regarding a patient.  If the
cleaner or workmen live close to your Practice they very well might know the patient.

A good tip for that is to have a confidentiality statement attached  to your visitor’s book – and when a visitor or workman comes into your building ask them to sign the visitor’s book after they had read the confidentiality statement and have agreed to it.

Every visitor to your Practice should be signing a visitor’s book not only to agree to your confidentiality statement but as a record that they are in the building – this can also be used for your Health and Safety Policy. In the event of a fire you have a record of what visitors are in the building.

But the most important thing is making sure that all your staff are aware of confidentiality and the importance of it and if the confidentiality is broken the consequences that it could bring to your Practice.

Confidentiality Training is vital for all new staff.

Confidentiality: The 6 Key Principles

Confidentiality is vital when working within the healthcare sector. You are privilege to information that should only be shared with others for the benefit of the patient.

If you are a receptionist and are unsure of confidentiality issues – ASK your Practice Manager. Your Surgery could very well end up in Legal proceedings through lack of confidentiality.

Managers – ensure that your staff has a good understanding of confidentiality.

I had reason to dismiss a member of staff that continually read patient records for her own gain – in easy terms she was being nosy and wanted to see what was wrong with the patients. This is unacceptable.

The 6 Principles of Confidentiality

  1. Justify the purpose(s)
  2. Don’t use patient identifiable information unless it is absolutely necessary
  3. Use the minimum necessary patient-identifiable information
  4. Access to patient identifiable information should be on a strict need-to-know basis
  5. Everyone with access to patient identifiable information should be aware of their responsibilities
  6. Understand and comply with the law

 1.  Justify the purpose(s)

Every proposed use or transfer of patient identifiable information within or from an organisation should be clearly defined and scrutinised, with continuing uses regularly reviewed, by an appropriate guardian.

2.  Don’t use patient identifiable information unless it is absolutely necessary

Patient identifiable information items should not be included unless it is essential for the specified purpose(s) of that flow. The need for patients to be identified should be considered at each stage of satisfying the purpose(s).

3.  Use the minimum necessary patient-identifiable information

Where use of patient identifiable information is considered to be essential, the inclusion of each individual item of information should be considered and justified so that the minimum amount of identifiable information is transferred or accessible as is necessary for a given function to be carried out.

4.  Access to patient identifiable information should be on a strict need-to-know basis
Only those individuals who need access to patient identifiable information should have access to it, and they should only have access to the information items that they need to see. This may mean introducing access controls or splitting information flows where one information flow is used for several purposes.

5.  Everyone with access to patient identifiable information should be aware of their responsibilities
Action should be taken to ensure that those handling patient identifiable information – both clinical and non-clinical staff – are made fully aware of their responsibilities and obligations to respect patient confidentiality.

6.  Understand and comply with the law
Every use of patient identifiable information must be lawful. Someone in each organisation handling patient information should be responsible for ensuring that the organisation complies with legal requirements.


These principles have been subsumed into the NHS confidentiality code of practice.

© 2011-2017 Reception Training all rights reserved