When You Overhear a Breach of Confidentiality #Bank #PersonalInformation #Uneasy



I popped into my local bank on Friday and whilst waiting in the queue I was shocked at what I overheard.

There was a staff member of the bank on the information desk helping a gentleman. The member of staff was polite and extremely helpful to the gentleman – full marks for customer service. BUT she was extremely loudly spoken – almost shouting while she spoke, she had one of those voices that everyone could hear. Standing in the queue with 2 other people in front I could not help but hear everything she was saying and it was all very clear. The member of staff was obviously speaking to another bank department on the telephone and it was to do with their on-line banking app.

The conversation between the customer and the bank staff was very one way, I could hear the member of staff very clearly yet I couldn’t hear the customer at all.

This is what I overheard and it was VERY loud and clear.

The member of staff was on the telephone explaining to the third-party that the gentleman in front of her has been locked out of his on-line banking the night before. This she said happened at approximately 22.10.

She explained to the third-party that the customer uses this way of banking on a regular basis. She went on to tell the third-party exactly what had happened and what he did as in logging out and trying again, and what app he was using – telling the third-party that he uses this app on a regular basis.

She explained to the third-party that the amount the gentleman was trying to transfer was £6,500 and she made a comment that this was possible why it he was locked out as it was such a large amount. She asked the gentleman exactly what the message had said when this happened. He obviously replied but I couldn’t hear it, but she then proceeded to tell the third-party what the message said.

She asked the gentleman what device he has used, he replied and again I couldn’t hear him, but she then told the third-party that it was an IPad that he had been using for the transaction.

She then proceeded to give the third-party the customers:

First name, surname, address and date of birth.

She then gave the third-party his

Account numbersort code and the account name that he held at the branch.

I was completely gobsmacked. imagesCA08BQ0A


I wondered if I should say something!!! Should I stop her making this situation worse than it already was. I actually felt uncomfortable standing there listening to this gentleman’s personal details being broadcast for everyone to hear.

There was another member of staff standing just in front of her directing people to the self-service machine and he didn’t once attempt to tell her conversation could be heard and to make it even worse right next to her were 2 empty offices where she could have taken the gentleman ensuring that confidentiality was adhered to throughout the call. She must have known that these questions would have been asked by the third-party.

She then proceeded to ask the gentleman for proof of identification so he gave her his driving licence to which she told the third-party she had and went on to give the third-party his driving license number.

My turn came to do my transaction, again I wondered about saying something to the cashier in front of me, but did I want to cause a fuss as this really wasnt anything to do with me and there were enough members of staff in the bank at that particular time that someone could have said something.

I left the bank, shocked I had been in there about 10 minutes enough time that I heard so much of this gentleman’s personal information. The sad thing is the member of staff was doing her very best to help this gentleman, but in doing so she could have caused a bigger problem simply by not understanding and adhering to confidentiality.


When Customer Service Goes Beyond Expectations

What is good customer service? When  good customer service go beyond your expectation.

Today is the 15th wedding anniversary of a very good friend of mine. Apart from the beautiful day itself one person at that wedding still sticks in my mind for the most amazing customer service that I feel that I have ever come across. Have a read and see what do you think?

My friend and her partner booked a local wedding videographer for their special day. The chose carefully as they were trusting someone to film their special day and capture those special moments. The met the videographer on several occasions and really got a good relationship going with him. Coming up towards the wedding he told them that he was about to move some distance away but assured them that he would be with them on their day, he was planning on coming up the night before and would be staying with friends, he also told them that his wife was due their first baby just after their wedding date, but he assured them that he wouldn’t let them down and would still be there.

The wedding crept closer and everyone was getting excited, a couple of days before the wedding my friend tried to contact the videographer to just go over the last-minute bits and pieces – she got no answer. She tried again and the same thing. The day before the wedding and there was still no contact from the videographer, they were getting concerned and could only think that perhaps his wife had gone into labour earlier than expected, and if that was the case perhaps he was backing out of the wedding. They resigned themselves to that fact and disappointed that they wouldn’t have a film of their day, but later that day the wedding the videographer telephoned and said that he would be there as planned and looking forward to seeing them both. They asked after his wife and he confirmed that she was in hospital and just having tests, he assured them that she was happy for him to come down, she didn’t want them to miss out.

The day arrived and it was absolutely amazing, I could see why they have chosen this guy as he was just fantastic, friendly, accommodating, and just great with the little ones, capturing their funny little moments as they played out on the green. He certainly did them proud.

He approached them around 9.15 that evening, and asked if it was ok that he went home, he had put in a full 12-hour day and hadn’t stopped much at all.

The happy couple went on their honeymoon and on arrival back home their wedding video was waiting for them. They were not disappointed, the videographer had caught such magical moments, captured everyone laughing and smiling getting some lovely interviews from the guests and even encouraged the little ones to say a few words. Such a lovely memory of their day.

Whilst the couple were on their honeymoon they bought a little present for the baby, who had probably now made his or her arrival. They tried to telephone the videographer several times to both say thank you for the video and to ask about the baby.

Finally, after they had been back a week the videographer returned their call. They asked about the baby, then he told them…….

Two days leading up to their wedding his wife had not felt the baby move, long story short she was admitted into hospital to be told the baby had in fact died. She had to go through labour and give birth to their beautiful sleeping baby.

Can you imagine what that poor couple must have been going through. But both him and his wife had discussed it and decided that their loss should not impact on the happy couple, his wife insisted that he still travelled up and film the wedding.

This man who had just lost his baby, left his wife in hospital to come and make sure that the couples day went as well as he could make it.

He smiled, he laughed, he was sociable and it must have broken his heart when he was filming the little ones playing on the green.  No one had any idea the heartache this poor man must have been suffering.

All he focused on was making sure that he didn’t ruin the couple’s day.

What a hero, how do you beat that for customer service?

So, on this day, my friend’s anniversary whilst I congratulate them, and wish them all the best, I always have a thought for this young couple that must have been going through a living nightmare and yet they still put others before themselves. That to me is just 1st class customer service.



© 2011-2017 Reception Training all rights reserved

Speaking to Receptionists on the importance of Training


Would you employ a Doctor or Nurse at your Practice that didn’t have any qualifications? No – so why did I even ask such a stupid question? Of course you wouldn’t. You go for the best candidate there is don’t you?

What is the first thing you look for on a CV? Previous experience, qualifications/training and the availability they can offer.

When you employ a Practice Nurse or another member to the healthcare team they are usually offered ongoing training. This will benefit the Practice, more clinics can be run, and therefore a better service offered to the patients.

So, why should a Receptionist be any different? They are part of the team, they are there to give a good service to the patients, and to support the Doctors, Nurses and the Practice Management Team and to achieve that they need the appropriate training to do this.

A good majority of General Practice Receptionists are woman, over 40 years of age and on average half have been in the job for more than five years. Four-fifths work part-time.

Comments from Receptionists are they have chosen the job because it dovetails with the rest of their lives.

What they get from their job is satisfaction from helping patients, meeting people, having a good relationship with colleagues and doing varied work.

Sources of stress include difficult patients, work pressures often down to shortage of staff, problems finding appointments to give to patients, and feeling caught between the doctors and the patients demands (piggy in the middle effect)

Dealing with difficult situations at the front desk, or over the phone is often highlighted in training courses, and often Receptionists feel unsupported when dealing with these incidents.

Many had a sense of teamwork with colleagues, but many did not perceive the whole practice as a team. Many felt the doctors failed to appreciate the pressure and complexity of their work.

A receptionist’s work is very complex, demanding and intense often involving a high level of commitment to patients, colleagues and the practice.

Speaking to Receptionists at various training sessions always bring different responses on how they feel supported by their Practice especially when it comes to training.

They vary from hardly any support at all, and having to learn whilst doing the job, to others that have support and training on a regular basis.

A role as a medical Receptionist is a bit like Marmite – you either love it or hate it. I have seen Receptionists lasting as short as a day to perhaps a week before saying “this isn’t the “nice little job I thought it was going to be’

A Receptionist that lasts is there because of their love for the job. If they do not feel supported they will leave, and move on to a Practice whereby they will be supported and appreciated. Don’t be that Practice that loses all your good staff.

I asked a group of Receptionists what did they think is most important when it comes to training for the role of a Doctors Receptionist – their replies included:

Quality time to get used to the job and the rest of the team”

Shadowing and taking notes, one to one time somewhere quite and more so when it comes to getting to grips with the computer system”

“Training on confidentiality – understanding what can and cannot be said”

“I must admit I was frustrated at being  “thrown in at the deep end” approach. There has to be an element of this because of the nature of the role, but some protected time is needed”

“Reception training is an investment and saves time (and often tears) in the long run”

Learning to deal with difficult situations at the front desk – I was faced with a bereavement at the front desk recently and didn’t know how to handle it”

“Being able to ask questions that get fully answered”

I asked, “What training their Practice had for their Receptionists” and the replies included”

“I was told at my interview that an induction programme would be put in place for me when I started, and it never happened – although the intentions were there. There simply was never the right time”

“The two receptionists asked to train me on the job felt resentful and that they had been “landed with me which made me feel awful”

“Other staff members were often reluctant to explain things in fear I might ask more questions, they clearly felt under pressure”

“The office Manager was immensely encouraging to me and I learnt so much from her. She proved very canny at sensing when I was struggling and would step in with down to earth words and support”

“I had to cancel a couple of training courses due to staff shortages which meant I was needed in Reception – and to date I haven’t had the chance to re-do them”

“My Team Leader and Practice Manager are wonderful and support us Receptionist with ongoing training”

A new Receptionist needs time to pick up a wide range of skills and variables associated with this underestimated role. People learn in different ways and often at different speeds. Some are ace at IT and pick up the computer system in no time, but perhaps struggle with terminology. Some get flustered easily and find it difficult dealing with difficult situations; others are able to cope with the pressure that patients (and often doctors) throw their way on what can sometimes be an hourly basis.

The role of the Receptionist is endless. You never get to the point and are able to say “there I know it all now” every day brings something new.

I asked Receptionists how their felt that training has benefited them and their replies were”

“Good training can be enjoyable, fun and such a benefit to the Receptionist, the patients and the Practice”

“Patients deserve to have staff that are confident and comfortable in their role”

Patients will leave satisfied, and hopefully reassured’

“I enjoy training – I feel I have the space to ask questions and enjoy meeting others in similar roles”

“Doctors, nurses, Practice Management will be supported by the reception team and therefore be able to work more effectively themselves.

“Jobs are completed and not just “left” because the Receptionist is unsure about completing a task, be it a letter, phone call or a query at the front desk.

“Team members work more efficiently when everyone understands their role, and the role of others around them”

It is so important that a new Receptionist is given time, and more time if needed. Investment in staff right from the start is so important.

Take some time to find out the needs of your Practice and also the needs of the Receptionist.

You’re Receptionist are the ambassadors of your Practice and deserve to be supported in the role.


© 2011-2017 Reception Training all rights reserved

5* Customer Service – #PremierInn #CustomerCare


We often take time to complain about a bad service, but very little of us complement a good one, so I would like to share with you a 5* customer experience.
We recently had to make a trip to Middlesex as a family member has just gone through major heart surgery at Harefield Hospital.
Arriving at 07.30 tired and hungry we booked into the Premier Inn near Heathrow Airport, (Shepiston Lane, Hayes) (Heathrow M4 Junction)
We had no reservation but the receptionist couldn’t have been any more helpful, and booking in at such an early time was no problem.
What we thought would have been a ordinary “run of the mill” Inn turned out to be 5* accommodation rounded off with the best customer service we have come across in a long time.
From the time we stepped through the front door the staff could not have been any more helpful, polite and extremely friendly.
The Reception staff we extremely friendly and nothing was too much trouble, the cleaning staff could not have done enough for us, and for the restaurant staff well they just went out of their way to ensure that our dining experience was as best as it could get.
Then there was the accommodation, oh wow it was just amazing. I can see why Premier Inn guarantee a good nights sleep – we certainly had that. The king size hypos bed was lush – and a good nights sleep we certainly had. Hard to believe that we were about 2 miles from Heathrow Airport, not a sound to be heard! We even had the most delightful pillows to lay our weary heads on! We found firm pillows on the bed and softer ones were also supplied in the room if needed then.
We had a good supply of tea, coffee, drinking chocolate, water and biscuits and more if we wanted them. We just had to ask.
After a hectic day visiting the patient we returned to have an evening meal. I can honestly say the restaurant was probably one of the best I have been in for a long while. The staff were very attentive, nothing too much trouble and we had two courses, a drink plus unlimited breakfast the next morning all for £22.99 each. The food was excellent. There was not one thing we could have found fault with.
When we returned to our room we found the telly had a range of Freeview Channels – my hubby was delighted to say the least!
The room was lovely and warm, with its own thermostat control panel.
After a really good nights sleep we went down for breakfast. The choices we had were unbelievable and again, I think that this was the best breakfast that we have ever had. The staff were tremendous and couldn’t do enough for us. They put the hot food out little at a time so there was a constant supply, which was fresh and hot.
And to add to all of the above, the checkout time was 12.00 midday. No rushing to book out of the room by 10.00 or 11.00 as some required. We were able to take our time, have another lovely cuppa before going on our way.
I cannot praise our whole stay enough. From the staff, to the accommodation to the food – all perfect in every way.
So, thank you Premier Inn for the lovely experience, and to the staff you have trained so well in giving such a great customer service.
We would certainly recommend your Inn and we definitely will be coming back.

link to the Premier Inn Heathrow



© 2011-2017 Reception Training all rights reserved

Signposting – Have you got it right?



I accompanied an elderly friend to the hospital yesterday. She had to go to see the neurologist.

I went with her as a friend but to also support her as she is in a lot of pain and finding walking difficult.

Parking as in most hospitals was pretty awful; we were lucky to find a space and then made our way into the hospital with plenty of time before her appointment was due. We entered the large outpatients department and found that they had completely reorganised the main area. There used to be an information desk, this now replaced by a super new coffee shop.

There was no sign to direct us to the neurology department so I stopped and asked two maintenance men who were deep in conversation propping up the door. One of them told us we had to follow the corridor to the end through the double doors and turn right, into the new part of the building. So off we went.


We went through the double doors, and there were no signs of our destination. So I asked another member of staff, she sent us back the way we had come, and once again we ended up somewhere that certainly wasn’t neurology.

I then asked a 3rd person who actually told us truthfully that they had no idea where it was, by this point my friend was starting to struggle with her walking, I sat her down and asked a 4thperson. This member of staff asked me to follow her and she took me directly to the department which was situated right beside the two maintenance men who were still there chatting. I went back and collected my friend and we made our way back to check in.

We waited at the empty reception desk, still not confident that we were in the right department, and the time was fast coming up to her appointment,my friend started getting anxious as she does not like to be late.

The Receptionist finally arrived, apologised for keeping us waiting and asked her name. Thank goodness we were in fact in the right place – more by chance I might like to add.

I asked the Receptionist why there was a lack of signposting and she told me that there were several outpatients clinics held there on a daily/weekly basis and they would be unable to list them all, and often they change to other parts of the department.

So, Hospitals, large GP Surgeries and Health Clinics please ensure that your signposting is user-friendly and if for some reason if have not got a help desk, or you cannot put up the correct signs, please think of putting directions on the appointment letters, and perhaps appropriate training for staff in how to deal with patients/visitors when they are asking for directions. If staff are not fully confident that they know where the departments are, then tell the patient that, please don’t send them on a wild goose chase like we were yesterday.

Large buildings that have lack of signposting can often be confusing to the elderly and the disabled.


© 2011-2017 Reception Training all rights reserved

Managers Training: The Other Side of the Desk

When managing staff it is always good to give them feedback. Yearly appraisals are a good opportunity for this but why leave it once a year?

Here is a little exercise I used to carry out on my Reception staff.

Sit in your Reception area at the busiest time of day. Observe what is happening in your Reception area – see how the receptionist deal with patients how they cope with the busiest time of day and how they copes with the pressure that the busy time can bring.

Put yourself in the place of a patient – see it from their eyes and ask yourself how do they see our Surgery?

Have a note-book with you and take notes – but the most important part of the exercise is not only to pick up on any negative issues but also highlight the positive issues too.

What should you be looking for:

  1.  Is patient confidentiality being broken? Can people in the waiting room hear conversations from the Reception Desk? Patient confidentiality it vital in any Practice – and more so at the front desk.
    People in the waiting room can often hear conversations at the front desk. Make
    sure you staff use as little personal information as possible. Make sure that
    all your staff has the appropriate training on Patient Confidentiality. (see
    blog on A Quick Confidentiality Checklist. http://t.co/S3E94mU8)
  2.  How does the Receptionist interact with the patients? Do they have good eye contact? Are they polite and always helpful? It is easy to be short with patients when you have a queue of people at the front desk. Training in dealing with such times is vital – train your staff in dealing with such times –
    how to move patients on quickly without being rude or appearing that they are
    not caring. A smile and a thank you go a long way.
  3. How does the Receptionist answer the phone? Is it answered quickly enough? Does the Receptionist deal with the call efficiently? Always make sure that your staff answers the phone with good morning/good afternoon – the name of the surgery and their own name. Staff than give their name takes ownership of the call more than those that do not give their name. Again, if they are in ear shot of the waiting room it is important that they remember Patient Confidentiality.
  4. What are the other staff doing whilst the busy time is happening – are they helping out?  Often in Surgeries you have Receptionists at the front desk and others doing other things such as admin, typing, prescriptions – have you got a contingency plan for such busy times – if someone is busy on the front desk or on the phone do you have someone who can come and help out for short periods of time.
  5. Can you hear conversations between Receptionists behind the desk? When the quieter times come Receptionists often will have a little chat – but they should be made aware to be careful on what they are chatting about – I had an incident where 3 Receptionists were discussing a TV programme that was on the night before. They were discussing the programme about Breast Cancer and about a lady having terminal Cancer – they talked in-depth about the programme – talking about people who had lost relative/friends to the horrible illness. What there were not aware of was a patient was sitting listening to them in the waiting room that had just recently been diagnosed with Breast Cancer – she found the conversation very upsetting. Whilst I was doing
    this exercise I also heard Receptionists discussing an issue that could have
    upset a patient in the waiting room.
  6. Is the Reception area being kept clean and tidy? It is important to
    keep your reception area clean and tidy. Not just for a good impression but for
    Health and Safety reasons too – magazines, children’s toys left lying around on
    the floor is dangerous – someone could easily slip and fall.
  7. Are the patients kept waiting for long periods of time (often a problem in surgeries) This unfortunately happens in every surgery. Observe how your patients feel about it – and how your Receptionists deal with the patients if they come back to the desk to complain/enquire about their appointment running late. Do you have a policy on Doctors/Nurses running late?Do you have a surgery policy about Doctors/Nurses running late?

After you have done your observation bring them to your next staff meeting.

I always find the best way to approach this is to tell your staff that it was not an exercise to “catch them out” but an exercise to find if and where improvements can be made.

Always start with the positive notes you have:

  •  How well you thought the receptionist dealt with a certain patient/incident.
  • How good their telephone manner is.
  • How lovely and tidy the reception areas looks.
  • How pleased you were to see others helping each other at the
    busiest time.
  • How good they are with dealing with confidentiality.


If there are any (and I am sure there will be) go onto the negative things that you found – discuss them and ask your team to give their opinion. Ask if there is a better way it can be dealt with. Include them in any decision-making. Include them in your findings.

Staff do not like change so I always used to say – we can change it, try it and if it does not work we can look at it again.  This always used to work.

Make minutes of the meeting – ensure that you record any changes that are going to be made and ensure that everyone has a copy – including those that were unable to attend the meeting.

Turn those negative into positives.


© 2011-2018 Reception Training all rights reserved

Fire Marshalls/Monitors – Basic Fire Evacuation.

The Principles of Fire Marshalling

Every Practice should have a fire evacuation policy – your Surgery should have a Fire Marshall or Marshalls.  The Marshalls or Monitors should have regular training and the full support of management in ensuring that all issues regarding safety are adhered to.

It is important that all staff are fully aware of who their Fire Marshalls/Monitors are in the workplace.  I suggest that you have a notice up stating who are the Fire  marshalls/Monitors for your Surgery.

Do you have more than one Fire Monitor/Marshall? If not what happens when your one and only Marshall/Monitor is away on holiday? In my experience is it best to have 2 – either full-time or part-time staff for each surgery and ones that most likely will work different hours from each other.

Your Surgery should be carrying out fire training at least once a year.   It is vital that staff know what their duties are in the event of an evacuation for their own safety and the safety of others.

Below are some brief tips taken from the Fire Evacuation Procedures that I had in one of our Health and Safety Manuals.


Identify and rectify any fire hazards (i.e. blocked exits, fire equipment unavailable etc). Everyone should identity a fire hazard and report it to their Health and Safety Marshall/Monitor or their Manager.

Be familiar with your surgery’s fire procedure. Fire procedures may be updated when staff numbers increase, area changes or layout of the building change.

Ensure that you have a copy of your fire procedure available for staff – all new staff should be fully aware of your fire procedures. I suggest you should have a copy of your procedure in the staff handbook.

  • Your Surgery should hold at least 2 training sessions on fire evacuation session per year. It is important to keep a record of those that have attended. Those that have missed the first training session should be encouraged to attend the second session. It is vital that staff are familiar with your surgery evacuation procedures.


  • Action to be taken when discovering a fire.
  • How to use the Surgery Fire Alarms
  • Action on hearing a fire alarm and the procedures that they need to follow.
  • The location of fire extinguishers
  • How to use fire extinguishers correctly (outside agencies are best to use for this)
  • Procedures on alerting members of the public, temporary and attached staff.
  • Evacuation Procedure
  • Assembly meeting points
  • The importance of Fire Doors.
  • The location of escape routes.
  • How to open all escape doors.
  • The reason for not using lifts.
  • The importance of general fire precautions and good housekeeping.
  • Your policy on calling the emergency services.
  • Where there is a practice fire evacuation all staff, patients, visitors should be made
    aware of this. The reason for this will help reduce panic and possible accidents.


 Every member of staff should be familiar with these following issues:

How to follow the evacuation procedure for the building.

Procedure for disabled persons. Disabled people can be considered as permanent and temporary such as, the elderly, people in wheelchairs, sports injuries, broken bones, pregnant women, persons with small children/pushchairs, all of these may need assistance to evacuate the building. (Please see blog for further info Safely Evacuating People With A Disability http://t.co/8InnNzSl)

Patients, visitors, and contractors will be unfamiliar to the surgery layout and therefore at great risk if a fire should occur.

People that may be working in areas with restricted exits.

If in the event of a fire it is very helpful if you can give a floor plan to the Fire
Brigade – this will help if they have to go in to search the building.

When carrying out Fire Training with staff quite often if you contact the local fire
brigade an officer will be more than happy to come out and talk to the staff.

If you have a visitor’s book ensure that this is taken out to the assembly point – this way
you can check if the visitor has evacuated the building. But this only works if
you ensure that your visitors sign in and OUT. It is useful to get contractors / workmen to sign the visit book for this purpose too.

PLEASE ensure that you have polices and procedure in place in the event of a fire.   



One of the best pieces of advise I could ever give a Receptionist that might be dealing with a difficult person at the desk



Two very powerful  words – yet we don’t have to utter a sound for them to make such a big impact.




Receptionist Training: Young Patients and Confidentiality


 It is important that a young patient feels confident to be able to
speak to a Health Care Professional in confidence.


Young patients also have the right to confidentiality! Often it is difficult when a young patient around the age of 15 years comes into the surgery alone. They often don’t want their parents to know that they have been to the Surgery. Often it is of a personal nature. So what happens when the Surgery need to get in touch with the young patient:

Do not phone the patient on their home phone (if possible)

This often leads to questions by parents as to why the surgery is phoning – especially if the patient has not told their parents they have been to the surgery.

Never leave a message on the home answer phone

Again, this will lead to questions by parents.

Use Mobile Telephones wherever possible.

It might be a policy of your Practice not to use mobile telephone numbers. But in the case of a young patient it is advisable to use a mobile number if you have one. This is one safe way of being able to speak direct to the patient – in confidence.

When is a good time to phone?

Ask the Young patient when would be the best time to phone. You don’t want to call when they might be in school or perhaps at home.

If a young patient comes in alone for an appointment

If a young patient wants to make an appointment and wants to be seen on their own please check with you Doctor/Supervisor/Practice Manager that they can be seen on their own. Your Practice should have guidelines on young patients.

At the time of the appointment check if they have a mobile telephone number – this will allow you direct access to the patient if you or a healthcare professional should need to contact them.

If Tests are being carried out

Make an appointment for them to receive the results. Normally we ask
patients to telephone for results – giving a young patient results can often lead to confusion and the correct procedures not taken. An appointment can give the Doctor/Nurse a chance to make sure they understand. It is amazing how many young patient do not understand medical terminology – I have had young patients believe that a “positive” pregnancy test means that they are NOT pregnant. Positive meaning it is good that they are not pregnant.  Do not assume that they understand – always clarify that they understand – explain exactly what the results mean. If as a Receptionist you are giving out a pregnancy result to a young patient and the test is “positive” follow-up by saying:

“Your pregnancy test is positive – that means you are pregnant – would you like me to make an appointment for you to see the Doctor”?    or

“Your pregnancy test is negative – this means that you are not pregnant”

When a Young Patient wants to book an appointment.

There are several things take into consideration when a young patient comes into the surgery to book an appointment:

  •  The young patient may not want their parents knowing that they are going to see the doctor.
  • Young patients are often nervous about seeing the Doctor.
  •  It might have taken a lot of guts for them to come in to book the appointment – maybe it might be of a sensitive nature – something that has taken them time to come in about. So don’t scare them off before they have a chance to see the Doctor/Nurse.
  •  Always try to fit them in when it is convenient with them – if they don’t want their parents knowing it won’t help giving them a tea time appointment – parents might ask questions to where they have been.
  •  Offer an appointment straight from school – or perhaps in their lunch break. Ask the young patient when it would be best for them to come to the surgery.
  • If you feel that the young patient is nervous see if you can fit them in there and then (if you have a surgery going on) – often they will book an appointment and not attend – their nerves get the better of them and they do not come back.
  •  If it is a male young patient try to book them in with a male doctor and a female doctor with a female patient. This will help if the appointment is of a sensitive nature.
  •  If the young patient comes to the desk with a friend – you can always mention that the young patient is welcome to bring their friend in with them to see the Doctor. They sometimes appreciate the support from a friend.

And most important – Young patient have the right to confidentiality – if they are old enough to come on their own then they should have the respect of confidentiality like any other patient. Sometimes Parents get to know that the young patient has been to the see the Doctor and will phone the surgery to ask what they have been in for – you do not have any right to give out any information. So be very careful. If young patients wanted their parents to know they were seeing the Doctor they would have told them.

Make sure you have the correct training in a situation where a parent calls the Surgery and asks why their child has been seen in the surgery. It may happen so be prepared.

How do you give out repeat prescriptions at your Surgery?

Do you keep your repeat prescriptions 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 or secure 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.