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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.’