Infection Control in Reception


Infection control starts the minute someone walks through the front door of your organisation.

It is important that sufficient information, training and support is put in place for all Receptionists and frontline staff to help them deal with the various daily challenges involving infection control.

Staff need to be reassured that the job that they are doing is done well and that they continue to be supported and motivated to provide a good service to your patients.

Staff should be adequately trained to deal with infection control and this training should include cleaners and all Reception staff.


Infection control training should take place on a regular basis for all staff. Do you include cleaners in your training? Some practices have outside agencies; if so, do they hold a copy of your Infection Control Policy?

Does your organisation have a designated person for Infection Control? Is all your staff aware of whom this is?

Do you have a report policy in place for identifying any risks of infection control – Reception should be included in this policy and know whom they should report to.

The Infection Control lead person should carry out the following:

  • Help to motivate colleagues to improve good practice
  • Improve local implementation of infection control policies
  • Ensure that infection control audits are undertaken
  • Assist in the training of colleagues
  • Help identify any Infection Control issues within your organisation and work to resolve these.
  • Act as a role model within your organisation.
  • Ensure that Infection Control protocols are reviewed and updated on a regular basis – or delegate to an appropriate person.

Hand Washing Procedures – Public and Staff Areas

Wash hand basins with suitable taps, liquid soap dispensers, alcohol rubs, paper towels and waste bins are essential items for all clinical care areas.

Whilst it is normally the responsibility of the cleaner to ensure that all of these areas are kept well stocked, some things might run out during the day. Therefore it is important that staff are made aware that these might need to be replenished throughout the day.

I have lost count of the number of times I recently have gone into hospitals and surgeries finding empty alcohol rubs, and toilets without toilet tissue or paper hand towels. It simply is not good enough.

Staff Immunisation Protection

Your Reception staff will be dealing with many Infection Control issues on a daily basis.

They will be receiving samples at the desk from patients. They will be dealing with patients that could possible come into your organisation with an infectious rash and could be asked to help with spillage. It therefore is important to include them in protection against Hepatitis B.

You should also offer your staff annual influenza immunisation.

Any immunisations given to your staff should be recorded. I would recommend that you record those that declined to have any immunisations.

Handling Specimens

Samples should come in a sealed container. I have had experience where many samples have come in all different shape and forms including:

  • A faeces sample in a child’s bucket
  • A faeces sample inside a plastic sandwich bag.
  • A urine sample inside a Tupperware container – the patient in fact asked when we had tested the urine could she have the container back as it was one of her “best containers”
  • A urine sample inside an empty perfume bottle.

These of course are not acceptable, for one it is not acceptable to expect the Receptionist (or nurse) to deal with this, and of course it is not in a sterile container.

Each and every sample should include all the necessary information about the patient, failing to do so could result in the labs refusing to carry out the necessary tests, resulting in the patient having to do the test again and possibly delaying any treatment that may be required.

All blood or potentially infected matter such as urine or faeces for lab testing should be treated as high risk and the necessary precautions taken.

The Reception Area

At the end of each day the Reception area should be left tidy. Often cleaners are instructed not to move paperwork or other items and work around them. Untidy desks therefore do not get cleaned as well as a clear desk.

Ensure that there are disposable gloves available in Reception for the receiving of samples from patients.

Any spillage in reception should be dealt with immediately and reported to the appropriate person.

Magazines and books should be replaced on a regular basis.

Toys made available for children should also be cleaned on a regular basis.

Public telephones should be wiped at regular intervals.

There should be a designated room for patients that might present themselves with a possible infectious disease i.e. chicken pox, measles etc. It is also important to inform the Doctor or Nurse that the patient is in the designated room, as often there is no tannoy facility to call patients in and often they could be missed.

Ensure that there are sick bowls available in Reception as this will be the first place the patient will come to if feeling unwell.

Ensure there are bins available in the waiting room, especially important for the disposal of used tissues, and possible a sign asking patient to place their used tissues in them.

Receptionist play a big part in Infection Control, more than we might sometime realise and its vital that they get it right, and also get the support that they require to do their job well.

Ensure that new staff have Infection Control as part of their induction training, and the necessary protocols are put in place for the Reception Area.

Talk to your Receptionists in a team meeting, often they will identify an area that may not been covered with a protocol. They are the experts in their area – RECEPTION.


© 2011-2017 Reception Training all rights reserved


DNA Appointments (did not attend)


We all know how scarce hospital and doctors appointments are and what is more frustrating is the number of DNA’s (did not attend) appointments that are wasted day in and day out – week in and week out – amounting to hundreds every year. 

What does your surgery or hospital do to try to keep on top of DNA’s? Do you do anything at all?

Some surgeries and hospitals display in the waiting room the number of DNA’s in the month – and this can be pretty horrifying when you see just how many appointments are wasted.  But it does get the message over to people if they do not want their appointment please cancel it and let someone else have the appointment. But of course the people who did not turn up for their appointments do not see these statistics.

Some hospitals will send out a text message a few days before your appointment to remind you and if you do not want the appointment they ask you to cancel it. A good reminder especially if the appointment was booked some time ago, but this only helpful for those with mobile phones, perhaps not so good for some of the elderly that do not use such technology. 

I have even heard some doctors confessing that they “do not mind” the DNA’s as this gives them time between patients to “catch up”.

One surgery that I worked in decided to be proactive and look at the amount of DNA’s every month – the partners were shocked to find that there were several hours wasted over the month through patients not turning up for their appointments.

So, they decided that if a patient DNA they would write them a polite letter pointing out that they missed an appointment, and would appreciate if the patient could not make a future appointment that they phone and cancel the appointment.

If the patient had a 2nd DNA the doctors would write again, this time telling the patient it was the 2nd time that they had done this, and if they DNA again for a 3rd with without good reason they “may” be asked to leave the practice list. The letter would go on to explain the amount of DNA’s the surgery was experiencing and the fact that patients were experiencing problems booking appointments and this was not being helped by the fact that so many appointments were being wasted by patients not attending.

This seemed to work well. Patients that received the first letter would phone to apologise, some would just ignore it and receive a 2nd letter – but no one actually got as far as getting a 3rd letter so hopefully the exercise did actually do some good.

All was going well until……………………..

I received a call from reception. There was a patient on the telephone wanting to make a complaint. This obviously concerned me as I prided myself on the very few complaints that we had at the surgery and I was obviously concerned.

The receptionists put the caller through.

The lady was pretty angry. She had received a letter from the surgery regarding her not attending an appointment the previous week.

She went on to say she actually took the time to cancel the appointment the day before the actual appointment, she said that she realised that someone else could have had the appointment.

I asked her what day and what time she called and she confirmed it was on the previous Tuesday at 8.30 (one of our busiest times). I asked her if she could remember who she spoke to (this is way why we get Receptionists to give their names) she confirmed the name of the Receptionists she had spoken to.

I apologised for our error and said that I would look into it for her.

I went down to Reception and checked the rota; it confirmed that the Receptionist in question was actually on duty that day and she was actually on the telephones that same morning, which pretty much confirmed that the patient was correct.

I spoke to the Receptionist and she confirmed that she was on the phones that morning, and that it had been a particularly busy morning reception.  She couldn’t remember the call but she also said that it could have very easily happened – someone could have come up to her and her attention was drawn to something else.

If this had happened before (and more than likely it had) the DNA would have just gone by unnoticed – the patient thinking they had cancelled her appointment, the surgery thinking we had yet another DNA.

We spoke about this at our next Receptionists meeting, and the girls all agreed that it could be something that could have got overlooked, something that they all felt that they might have done at some point.

This didn’t cause any problems UNTIL we started monitoring the DNA’s and sending letters out.

So, from then we make sure that any patient that cancelled an appointment that it was done immediately so as not to have a repeat complaint.

You cannot be sending out such letters to patients that had actually taken the time and trouble to phone in and cancel their appointment.

I wrote to the patient apologising and admitting the error was on our part, and ensuring her that we had looked at our procedures and were making every effort in the future that it would not happen again. 

Practical Reception Skills for a New Receptionist

As a new Receptionist you will be very welcomed by your team. Do not be fooled at this new position as being a “nice little job” it is far from it. You will be extremely busy at times, sometimes short-staffed and occasionally come across grumpy patients (and sometimes Doctors). A Doctors Receptionist is like Marmite you either love it or hate it. If you love it you will have a job for life – but be prepared for hard work. But you will also find it very rewarding.


The waiting room is the core of your organisation.  It will be the main part of your working environment as a Receptionist and is often the part of a surgery in which the patients spend most time: it follows that the condition of the waiting room can leave a great impression on patients, good or ill.

Before every session you could ensure that:

  • The waiting room is clean and tidy
  • Identify any hazards and report them immediately (health and safety)
  • Ensure that fire notices and leaflets are tidy and up to date.
  • Keep magazines and other reading material fairly up to date.
  • Ensure that there is nothing left lying on the floor that could possibly cause an accident.


If possible arrange the reception area in such a way that patients leaving the surgery must pass by the reception desk after a consultation. Patients are often preoccupied after seeing the doctor and, for example, forget to ask for a follow-up appointment.


As a Receptionist you main duties will be dealing with numerous patients throughout the day. Remember the patients are the core of the Practice – without patients you would not have a job. You will have patients come into the surgery in person or speak to them over the telephone. You must remain calm at all times, be able to prioritise and ensure that you follow-up every task that you are given. If you are unable to do so then you must ensure that you pass on your tasks to another person or leave a message in the Receptionists message book.

People skills are a essential for this role.


As a receptionist you may be required to organise transport for a patient. Ensure that you are aware the procedures for arranging transport and how it works from the patient’s point of view so that you can explain these transport arrangements to them.  Please ensure that you are aware of your surgeries policy on calling 999.

Please see post on Does Your Practice have a 999 Policy


Consultation by appointment rather than queuing in the waiting room is now almost universal. The purpose of an appointments system can be good and bad. A bad system means patients have to wait a long time for an appointment and become frustrated and angry. A good appointment system work to the advantage of both Doctors and Patients.

You as a Receptionist should be encouraged to feedback to the Practice Manager/Doctors in areas that you feel could improve the system. After all it is you as a Receptionist that will identify what is going well and not so well.

Encourage patients to cancel appointments when they are not needed. DNA’s (did not attend) is the biggest problem for patients waiting on appointments – if everyone cancelled their appointment if it was not needed it would free up many appointments over the week and the month. ALWAYS thank a patient when they cancel an appointment – everyone responds well to praise.

Most important remember to cancel the appointment off the computer screen – sometimes a DNA can go against the patient if it has not been taken of the computer screen – as some Practices record all the DNA’s. Some practices even write to Patients when they have had 3 failed DNA’s – and this has lead to bad feelings when the patients have in fact telephoned the surgery to cancel their appointments.


As a Receptionist you will probably deal with the practice mail. Incoming mail should be sorted daily and date stamped and any enclosures securely attached – and if any missing items are identified this could be recorded and followed up with the recipient.


These are samples that are sent daily to the local hospital. Every specimen HAS to be labelled corrected – and this should include the patients name, date of birth and the time the sample was taken. Often busy Doctors do not enclose all of the required information – before the Specimen box is collected by the local courier please check that all the specimens are correctly labelled.

Usually results come through electronically but some Incoming results may still come through as a paper copy – these should be either scanned, or recorded in the patients records – your practice will have a policy on this. For all results than come through via the post they should be date stamped like a normal letter.


In Reception you will require to have a small amount of cash. Patients often pay for reports completed by the Doctor, for their passports being signed and often housing letters along with other items.

Ensure that you have change – not just notes.

All petty cash should be kept in a locked petty cash box and topped up weekly or monthly. It is essential that all money taken from the petty cash box has a record showing all expenditure and receipts.

Any money taken from a patient ensure that a recepit is offered. Record the monies in the appropriate place and also record it on the patients records.


As a Receptionist you may be one of the first into the building or one of the last to leave. It is advisable to have a check list of thing to do on such occasions.

Speak to your Supervisor/Manager and if your practice has not got such a checklist perhaps with your Manager you could organise such a list – this is particularly very helpful to all new Receptionists when they start.

Some of the things that should be on your list will include:

  • Doors and windows are closed – especially all fire doors.
  • All appropriate lights are switched off
  • Appropriate electrical equipment is switched off
  • IMPORTANT: Answer phone is switched over to out of hours service
  • Alarm is set.
  • Patient notes are securely locked away.


A common source of anxiety to a receptionist is what to do when faced with an emergency. This can be very daunting to a new Receptionist but with good training and Practice Procedures and Polices you will soon become skilled in dealing with such emergencies.

As a Receptionist you may be required to learn basic first aid. Your practice will arrange such training for you.

It may seem very daunting when you first start as a Receptionist – but no one expects you to know everything at once. Take each day as it comes – shadow a fellow Receptionist and ask questions all the time.

In my experience in hiring Receptionist it can take up to 6 months before a Receptionist is really confident – but as we all know nothing stays the same and things within the NHS and Surgeries never stay the same – there are always new procedures and changes to existing policies so at the end of the day we are learning something new all the time.

Receptionist Training: Dealing with a Complaint.

People usually want to make a complaint because they are unhappy with the service they are receiving. Have you taken all steps to ensure that you have done your utmost to ensure that you have done everything in your power to avoid this situation? If so, well done, unfortunately you cannot be responsible for every situation that may or may not go according to plan.

When someone wishes to make a complaint and you feel that you are unable to deal with it don’t ignore it – direct to someone that can.

STAY CALM! Don’t make an already difficult situation even worse than it already might be. If you feel that you are unable to deal with it – ask another member of staff to step in and help.

ALWAYS take any complaint seriously.

Make sure that you are aware of your company “Complaints Policy”. Is there a person that deals with customer complaints? If so, pass the complaint over to them in person.  If they are not available at that time ensure that you take details and pass it to them on their return

Has your company got a “Complaints Form?  If not perhaps you could suggest having one.

Do not wait for the customer to complete the complaints form before you pass it on to the appropriate person. If a customer has verbally made a complaint you need to log the complaint – you should date and time the complaint and outline what the customer was complaining about – and pass this onto the appropriate person to deal with.

Quite often people will get annoyed and want to complain – if the complaint is dealt with quickly  and efficiently it can often be resolved and the complaint will often go no  further.

If the situation is dealt with in a professional manner and the customer is offered a complaints form to complete more often than not they will take the form away – calm down and decided not to complete the form .

If the complaint is over the telephone, again ask the customer is they would like you to post out a complaints form to them.

A complaints form can often be turned into a positive situation – learn from a complaint – look at how you can improve the incident and ensure that it doesn’t happen again. Discuss complaints at staff meetings – don’t push them “under the  carpet”. You don’t want to have the same complaint again and again. This is a good way to review and update your procedures and policies.

ALWAYS reply to any complaint you receive either verbally, in person or in writing. If you feel that your company were in the wrong apologise to the customer. Always look into a complaint with an open mind – speak to staff members and ensure that you get both sides of the story. Often a complaint is made by someone who at the time was very angry and certain facts can often been overlooked. Support your fellow staff members – and if the complaint is justified deal with it appropriately and go through the correct procedures.

Receptionists Training: The 4 P’s Of Telephoning



  • ALWAYS have a pen, message pad or notebook ready when you answer the phone. There is nothing more annoying to a caller than having to repeat something twice.
  • ALWAYS aim to answer the phone within 5 rings.
  • ALWAYS have a list of telephone numbers available. You will be asked at some point for a telephone extension number or an external telephone number.




  • ALWAYS have up to date information on your surgery/organisation available and not just your department.
  • Callers will expect you to have the answers.
  • ALWAYS have internal telephone numbers available (where ever possible) to give to the caller in the event that you cannot put them through.
  • ALWAYS have information available that the caller might require.

–           Local hospital

–          Local social services

–          Local taxi service




  • Know policies / procedures and protocols of your organisation.



  • Ensure you know who is responsible for what within your team, and who to refer the caller to.
  • Know when team members are in or out. There is nothing worse than putting a call through to an empty room – the caller will only end up coming back to you – or even worse having to call back. This leads to an unhappy caller.


Know fully about your organisation, its procedures and services, and be able to deal with customers confidently and positively.

REMEMBER: YOU are the ambassador of your organisation.

© 2011-2017 Reception Training all rights reserved

New Receptionists Training (1)

I will be sharing some of the training that I did with Receptionists whilst working within the NHS.

My aim was to train staff in all areas of customer care. You might think that some of it is very basic and perhaps a bit too obvious. But believe me – there is nothing I took for granted.

A lot of the time I employed Receptionist that were returning to work after several years being a full-time mum, some had never worked in an office environment before and other had never worked on a Reception desk before.

Some of them did not know how to answer a telephone and deal with the call  in a professional manner.

What I did see was the potential in these people, they were keen to work, were very loyal and extremely good at customer care. So my duty to them was to ensure that they were supported in every way and this included training to help them in their roles.

I believe that fully trained staff are confident staff. And confident staff are usually very good at their jobs.

We take it for granted that when the Doctors Receptionist answers the phone she knows what she is doing, the patient puts their trust in that person answering the phone.

The same when a patient comes to the desk, again the trust is put in the Receptionist to guide them to the appropriate healthcare personal. This can only be done with training. And everyone has to start somewhere.

I have seen it all too often, new Receptionists are left to a more senior Receptionist to train them – it works well most of the time, but there are areas that perhaps a mentor does not want to do.

I had senior Receptionists coming to me saying that the new Receptionist might not have been very good on the telephone, although they dealt with the call it could have been handled more efficiently. But they didn’t feel it their place to tell the new Receptionist how to answer the telephone, what to say, how to dress and how to speak to people at the Reception Desk. And I had to agree –they were busy enough doing their own tasks, busy enough having to show a new person the ropes, so I decided that every new receptionist would have “New Receptionist Training”.

We all have to start somewhere and where better with the appropriate training that is needed for the job!

My blog will share will you the contents of the training – but the best part of the training was the two-way participation – each section was analysed, discussed and if appropriate sometimes changed. I was always will to listen to new ideas and ways of improving our service to our customers and staff.

It was my experience from working on the Front Desk that set me up through my Career – so what better way is to “listen” to others – many changes, procedures and policies were put into place listening to the staff that work so very hard on the Front Desk.


© 2011-2017 Reception Training all rights reserved