Receptionists: “More lethal than the sharpest of needles”

This letter sent to the Star was written by CM Langan, Beauchief, S8

Monday, 29th April 2019, 7:52 am
Updated Wednesday, 1st May 2019, 8:14 am
Doctors NHS

Let's face it, doctors' receptionists don't have the best of images. What springs to mind is someone who's such a dragon that they could feature on the Welsh flag, breathing fire all over the reception area; they're to be dreaded. More lethal than the sharpest of needles and the most foul-tasting potion.

Yes, I've come across a few that fit that description in my time! Admittedly not recently though, and an article I read in a woman's magazine yesterday was quite an eye-opener. It was basically in the form of a diary of a receptionist at a GP's practice, (where there were only two doctors serving 7,000 patients!), in which she detailed her work throughout the week.

The first call came at 8.15am on a Monday from a man demanding an appointment. It turned out he'd only got a verruca! The receptionist pointed out that this could be treated by a pharmacist and his language rapidly descended into Anglo Saxon mode, then he slammed the phone down.

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Other callers with things like chapped lips, nits and conjunctivitis were also directed to pharmacists. Routine appointments were fully booked in no time, (some sadly turning out to be no-shows), and emergency appointments reserved for children, the elderly or those with severe symptoms. In order to define 'severe', the receptionist needed to ask the caller about the nature of their complaint, which not everybody liked. Some callers were abusive, others, already on the premises, could even turn violent and the police would be called. In contrast, an old lady with chest pains and difficulty breathing apologised for bothering the doctor!

The receptionist said the job had its compensations, however, and declared what a joy it was to get to know patients, seeing them through key events in their lives, (time permitting, of course).

One GP's receptionist interviewed on TV gave a few amusing anecdotes, for example, a lady who'd been asked to provide a urine sample and she didn't think she'd produced enough so she got her husband to top it up for her!

In summary, though, this is no job for the faint-hearted. We all need to 'think pharmacy first' before picking up that phone, and to spare a thought for the frazzled reception staff when the lines are continually engaged and the surgery's about as easy to get hold of as 'the fugitive'. After all, they're human beings doing their best against considerable odds.