Phoning a Patient at Home


Does your Practice have guidelines on phoning patients at home? We all know of the obvious one and that’s not to leave a message of any kind on a landline because of confidentiality.

But when is it a good time to phone when you need to speak to a patient? Perhaps it’s relaying on a message from the Doctor or Nurse, or just to let them know there is a prescription to collect due to recent tests coming in.

I will give you an example on how consideration should be made when phoning a patient at home.

Someone close to me has for the past 6 years been trying for a baby without any success. The couple have been through many hospital and doctors visits, pregnancy results and alternative treatment to try help them achieve a pregnancy. They finally went through IVF earlier in the year with the daily injections, hormone changes and finally the heart-breaking news that it hadn’t worked. They set their sights on more IVF in 3 months’ time. An eternity to them both. But to all our surprise and delight a month after the failed IVF they fell pregnant naturally.

Fast follow to her being 6 months pregnant. She hadn’t had an easy time, morning sickness and fatigue hit with a vengeance, she also has an over active thyroid that needs monitoring throughout the pregnancy and she also found out that she was rhesus negative blood type and tests would have to be done when the baby was born to see if she needed an anti D injection but the delight of finally being pregnancy got them through all of these hiccups.

Her symptoms were getting worse and she was feeling poorly with no energy she seen the doctor and bloods were sent off to check for her iron levels.

So last Wednesday morning she was in bed. It was 7.55 and the telephone rang downstairs. They have elderly relatives and she immediately worried something was up. No on every phones at that time unless its urgent she thought.

She rushed out of bed, rang down the stairs and as she picked up the phone it stopped. She waited for a message but then her mobile started ringing upstairs – she panicked as someone was trying to get hold of her.

As she ran upstairs to get to the phone she tripped on the stairs and fell. In the panic she got up and answered the telephone to find it was her Doctors Receptionist telephoning to say that there was a prescription in reception for her to pick up for iron tablets.

As you can imagine she was upset as the fall. As the day went on she couldn’t feel much movement from the baby and this caused her a lot of distress, until she finally telephoned her midwife to asked her to come straight into the maternity hospital to check the baby and to have an anti D injection.

So, did the Receptionist really need to phone at 7.55 in the morning? I don’t think so. This telephoned caused a lot of unnecessary worry and inconvenience not to say how awful it could have been – but we wont do there! And not to mention how bad the Receptionist would have felt had she had known about the fall.

There should always be a guideline for people being telephoned at home unless it is urgent of course. 7.55 is far too early, what if it had been an elderly or disabled person doing the same thing? A fall could have been a disaster for them.

When training staff I always told them unless urgent no patient should be telephoned at home before 9.00 and if possible leave it until around 10.00.

More and more surgeries are opening up earlier than every before, so perhaps guidelines should be set to what time Receptionists can start to phone patients.

© 2011-2017 Reception Training all rights reserved



Keep Your Promise – Phone Back When You Say You Will



I rang a consultant’s secretary at our local hospital for the 4th time this afternoon. I phoned and left two messages last week, she didn’t get back to me. The 3rd call last Thursday she actually answered the telephone.

I was requesting some information from her and left it in her hands to get back to me with an answer. I left her my telephone number and my email address.

I had to call again for the 4th time this afternoon.

I could tell by the way the conversation went that she hadn’t done what was asked of her. No apologies, no reasons why, just that she hadn’t done it and with another empty promise she would look into it and get back to me. She actually tried to put the blame onto someone else which I felt was unfair as I had left the query with her and not a 3rd person.

By this time I was getting rather frustrated. I need to have this information so I can act accordingly. Had I voiced my annoyance that she hadn’t done the task asked of her she would have probably taken offence and the good communication we have had so far would be broken.

Will I have to ring a 5th time? I suspect I will and quite possibly she will be the one who will start to get frustrated with me – because to her it seems that I am always on the phone to her. I could possibly turn into one of those people who vent their frustration over the telephone, something that really go against anything that I believe in – but there is a limit.

Do I go over her head and speak to her supervisor or line manager? I could but I don’t really want to turn this into a complaint – yet!

Whilst I appreciate she is probably very busy, she had taken voicemails from 2 calls, and two telephone conversations all of which has taken up time, my time and her time. Had she dealt with this sooner I would not be bothering her as much as I have. I use the word “bothering her” as that is probably what she feels I am now.

I ask myself how many other people are having a similar experience and what a completely waste of time.

I feel that I am a fairly calm person, I think I need to be in my job, but there are plenty of other people who would not be quite so calm. If someone else was in my shoes they might not be quite so understand about the situation. This could have resulted in one angry caller, and one very upset secretary.

If you received a call and you promise to get back to the caller please ensure that you do, even if it is to say that you do not have what they are looking for but you are dealing with it. That’s all that is needed.

It is also important that if you expect someone to call you back that you are available to take the call, if you know that you might be tied up with other things you could ask them to leave a message.

Communication is vital; let people know what is happening at all times. Return their calls, even if it is just to say I am still dealing with your query.

Treat people with respect.


Reception Training Logo 2

I am a qualified Trainer and can offer courses on the following subjects:

  • Receptionists Training
  • Reception Training For The New Receptionist
  • Telephone Skills
  • Confidentiality 
  • Disability Awareness For Receptionists 
  • Leadership Training (for team leaders / supervisors)
  • Team Building 
  • Communications Skills 
  • Dealing With Difficult Situations 
  • Going to Meetings 


© 2011-2017 Reception Training all rights reserved


Treat People With Respect

I had a friend contact me this morning in quite a state. Her son who lives over 200 miles from her was sent hospital by his GP last night with head pain, high temp and bad stomach pains. His white cell count was elevated and he had to have a CT scan. She phoned the ward first thing this morning and was met with the most “unhelpful” clerk.  My friend said she was in fact pretty rude to her and it upset her and because of that she didn’t really get much information from the clerk at all.

She has spoken to her son via his mobile and has got as much information as she could. As you can imagine she was out of her mind with worry and getting someone who was really unhelpful has not helped her at all. She asked what she should do.

I did explain that although there is no excuse for someone being rude, the clerk was probably being careful to what she was disclosing to her over the phone – patient confidentiality. I suggested that she get her son to speak to the ward sister and give permission (if he was happy to) that they could pass on information to his mum.  She confirmed that her son had in fact said it was ok to share information with his mum.

I then suggested that she phone back again, and if the clerk were to be rude again that she should challenge her – ask her why she was being unhelpful or rude if that were to be the case – often if you challenge someone they realise that their attitude is not right – and then change it. If she found that the clerk was still not being helpful then she should ask to speak to someone else that could perhaps answer her questions.

Staff that are dealing with anxious family members should do with care and courtesy, I know my friend and she is nothing but gentle and pleasant, she did not deserve to be spoken to in this way.

Staff should have training on customer care – and how to deal with people in person but especially over the telephone. They have to realise that like my friend they are phoning to enquire about loved ones and are worried.  The clerk might be the first person they speak to and they deserve a bit of courtesy.

She did phone back and spoke to someone a bit more helpful. A password was set up – this would be put on her son’s notes and every time she phones she will be asked for the password and then get the information she needs to ensure that her son is doing well.

It’s a shame that she wasn’t given this option the first time she phoned. It certainly would have saved her a lot of unnecessary worry.

I ask myself – how would that ward clerk have felt if she had been in my friends shoes and had been spoken to like that!


Always treat people the way you would expect to be treated.

© 2011-2017 Reception Training all rights reserved