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GP practices with unhelpful receptionists score lower on patient satisfaction

Unhelpful GP practice receptionists drive a decline in patient satisfaction, according to a new study published in the British Journal of General Practice.

Researchers analysed recorded conversations between receptionists and patients and later cross-referenced their findings with results from the GP Patient Survey.

The paper said that before the study, 'it was known that surgeries offering basically the same service differed in their satisfaction ratings' but it was unclear why.

But the findings revealed that where the receptionists left it up to the patient to drive the conversation forward, ensuring it resulted in the service they requested, patient satisfaction suffered.

The paper said: 'Analysis identified a burden on patients to drive calls forward and achieve service. "Patient burden" occurred when receptionists failed to offer alternatives to patients whose initial requests could not be met, or to summarise relevant next actions (for example, appointment, call-back, or other query) at the end of calls.

'Coding revealed that "patient burden" frequency differed across the services. Increased ‘patient burden’ was associated with decreased satisfaction on published satisfaction survey scores.'

The researchers concluded that their findings have implications for GP practices in training their receptionists. They said their findings can 'underpin receptionist training and improve patient experience and satisfaction'.

RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker said: 'It is not an easy job, and all too often receptionists bear the brunt of criticism if a patient is not satisfied with the care they receive. Yet, in the majority of cases dissatisfaction may be as a result of circumstances out of receptionists' control; a lack of GP appointments due to the intense resource and workforce pressures currently facing general practice.'

Readers' comments (17)

  • ... and it needed a Study to show the bleedin' obvious?

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  • Blimey, for once I agree wholeheartedly with Maureen :)

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  • When we increased capacity both reception helpfulness score and satisfaction shot up. So did our overdraft so we've backtracked. NHS gets what it pays for.

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  • Agree with 8.57 - we can only provide the level of service that we are paid to provide.

    It's the old analogy of being asked to provide a BMW product for Dacia remuneration. No can do. The public need to know this.

    That said, the receptionists you do employ should be bright and professional - that costs nothing.

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  • Wow, the article is so negative. Surely it should have read "Helpful receptionists drive up patient satisfaction".

    I partially agree with 8:57 but standards are not always linked with capacity. Interestingly, we've taken on several apprentices from local college and we are getting better feedback on them then the old receptionists. When I see the ones that's been here for long time, they are often unhelpful and inflexible - I understand the need to have boundaries but they are on the other side of extreme end!

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  • Next thing they will be telling us will be that under-funding health and social care causes waiting lists to go up and the health system to fail.

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  • Next headline will read that water is wet...

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  • Causation is not demonstrated here.

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  • And the point is?
    No doubt that HUNT will twist this so that 7 day working will increase patient satisfaction. He and his department have been devious about the truth as always.

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  • Russell Thorpe

    Receptionists are only "unhelpful" when they don't have any appointments to offer people. So this study revealed that patients are unhappy when they can't get appointments with their GP.

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