As someone with a front office role in military primary care, I am well aware of the importance of the first impression that a practice gives to patients. As a user of local GP practices I sometimes see the other side of that equation.
My husband has great difficulty getting an appointment to see his GP - he actually has to fib about his asthma to get seen! I find it appalling that he has to do that but I do understand that it is not the receptionists fault.
They are the "face" of their practice. How that practice has decided to run their appointment system and triage patients is not down to them. Those are decisions for the Practice Manager or the Partners.
I do agree that many receptionists would benefit from relevant training. Having recently completed the AMSPAR Diploma in Primary Care and Health Management myself, I am aware of how much better equipped I am to do my job.
The age of the "Dragon" behind the desk is in the past and it is unfortunate that patients do not always realise that. Access to primary care is a huge issue for many GP practices. Unfortunately there are no easy answers!