GP receptionists’ reputation as grumpy and unhelpful is unfair because they have such a difficult job in prioritising patients with minimal time, information and training, a study has found.
Researchers from the University of Manchester and University of Liverpool found that receptionists typically feel a responsibility to protect the most vulnerable patients, but find this challenging because of a shortage of appointment slots and some patients ‘trying to play the system’.
The study, Slaying the dragon myth: an ethnographic study of receptionists in UK general practice, published in the British Journal of General Practice, analysed more than 200 hours of interactions between 45 GP receptionists and patients, and conducted interviews with receptionists.
It concluded: ‘The historical perception of the receptionist as a “dragon behind the desk” has been getting in the way of understanding the role of receptionists and thus improving patient care; to slay it entirely will require a concerted approach to understanding and supporting receptionists so that they can better facilitate patient access to health professionals and other sources of help.’
Lead researcher Jonathan Hammond, a research assistant at the University of Manchester, said: ‘It might be the case that what are portrayed as individual failings on the part of receptionists are actually due to systemic problems within GP practices.’