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GP's advice Unqualified medical advice is indefensible

AGP whose only experience has been in the relatively impersonal environment of a large modern health centre where staff turnover is rapid and everyone sticks to the letter of their job description may be surprised to find that this situation still occurs in small practices in close-knit communities where the receptionists and patients know one another well. As well as earning the trust of patients, an intelligent receptionist will inevitably absorb a useful amount of basic medical knowledge over the years and may come to be regarded as a user-friendly alternative to seeing the doctor.

In today's litigation-conscious society, an arrangement like this is a recipe for disaster. If a GP or triage nurse advises a parent to give a febrile child paracetamol and fluids and bring it to surgery if it is no better the next day and the child proves to have meningitis, it would be unfortunate. If a receptionist had given the advice, it would be indefensible.

You need to get your partners on your side. Explain your concerns again, with everyday examples of how apparently sensible advice given by a receptionist could cause problems if something went wrong. Then arrange a meeting with the receptionists and tell them that while you appreciate what they do and you don't doubt their wisdom, 'new rules' mean they may no longer give medical advice under the aegis of the practice.

 · Tell your receptionists that 'new rules' mean they cannot give advice any more

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