GP receptionists play a key role in determining the level of patient satisfaction with a practice, according to a new survey.
Researchers analysed phone calls involving receptionists, identifying those that were helpful to patients and those that were not.
The researchers found that “unhelpful” receptionists were in practices with relatively low patient satisfaction levels.
Researchers from Bristol and Loughborough universities analysed some 447 calls from three surgeries for the study in the British Journal of General Practice.
They describe an unhelpful call in which a receptionist repeatedly tells a patient there are no appointments at specific times and surgeries – leaving the patient to push for alternatives.
In an example of a helpful response, a receptionist offers to a patient to try to find an appointment slot.
The Royal College of GPs said the government had promised nationwide training for all members of practice teams.
Chair Dr Maureen Baker said: “It’s important to remember that whilst receptionists play a pivotal role in delivering patient care, they are not healthcare professionals, and should not be put in a position where they have to make decisions about our patients’ health.
“One of the key pledges in NHS England’s GP Forward View is the delivery of nationwide training for the whole practice team, including receptionists and clerical staff.
“This would have important ramifications for the role of the GP receptionist and the overall patient experience and the College will be following developments closely.”