BBC Newsflash: Receptionists ‘put people off seeing doctor’ “

If it wasn’t obvious to you before, this alone should teach you how the standards of journalism at the BBC have fallen over recent decades.  It should also tell you the average age of the ill-educated muppets they employ these days, lest you should imagine anyone over the age of thirty needed a news story under such a headline.
receptionThe rest of us have been bemoaning this situation since, well, since we first had to make a doctor’s appointment for anyone in our family.

The presumption most of us have been labouring under for the last fifty years or so, is that doctors don’t actually like patients and the last thing they want is to have any of them cluttering up their surgeries or, heaven forbid, interrupting their round of golf.  If that weren’t the case they’d put a little more effort into recruiting decent staff and giving them guidance on how to perform their role in the practice, wouldn’t they?

If this article ended at incompetence, ignorance and immaturity, I could laugh it off but when it strays into downright (but very illuminating) lies, misinformation, misunderstanding and reinforcement of some of the most critical social ills in our land, I have to speak out.

“Receptionists quizzing patients about why they need to see their GP could be putting some sick people off visiting their surgery, a survey suggests.”.  I kid you not, they actually wasted calories dreaming up this sentence but that’s as nothing compared to the idiocy of whoever it was that felt the need to waste oodles of someone’s money and boundless more calories conducting a survey from which to arrive at this conclusion.  They do realise that energy is a finite resource and we can’t afford to waste calories in this way, don’t they?

“Experts say patients must be forceful and not take no for an answer if they have symptoms that need investigating.”  but then “The government says it is funding training to help receptionists learn how to be sensitive to patients’ needs.”.  That is bureauspeak for well, pure bollocks really.  Having just lectured the rest of you I’m hardly going to expend more calories than necessary conjuring with polite phrases to describe such nonsense.

The “journalist” then conjures up the next bit from his or her own deluded little brain with, as far as we can tell, no help whatsoever from the government, a basic education or any exposure to the real world:

“Receptionists are the first point of contact in primary care and it is their job to decide which patients should see the GP and how urgently.

They do a vital job, but feedback from patients reveals some can be off-putting.”

“Vital?”  Vital to whom?  I’m sure every clerical trainee in the world will be thrilled to know how “vital” their role is and hey, without having to waste ten long years of education, training and standing on drafty picket lines waving daft posters around and chanting the Hari Krishna or whatever blather was coming out of their vocal chords last time I looked. “Vital” ????

…but lest I get overly distracted by a lone adjective, let’s go back to the preceding sentence, the one about the job description of a doctor’s receptionist.

If evidence was needed of just how corrupted the minds of the British public have become on the subject of the NHS, this feral writer expressed it perfectly with that statement: “… it is their [the receptionist] job to decide which patients should see the GP and how urgently”.  NO THAT IS NOT THEIR JOB.

That’s may be how they make people feel and, I’m sure, how some of them are trained to behave, if it doesn’t come naturally.  The role you describe falls to the patient, alone.  They may seek the advice of a doctor at some point, to assist their decision making process but I hope they’ll never seek advice from a clerical employee who has not completed ten years of medical training or even thirty seconds of education in compassion.

The job of the receptionist, though it may come as a surprise to most of them is, I would contend:

To greet every caller in a polite, pleasant and respectful way; by their behaviour and demeanour to best represent the good name and reputation of the practice that employs them; to provide the caller with such advice and assistance as may be appropriate given the nature of the caller’s enquiry; to assist the caller to obtain an appointment with the most appropriate member of the practice team (doctor, practice nurse, specialist care person, etc) based on the information volunteered by the caller and finally, to do all this in accordance with the policies and procedures laid down by her employer, the practice.

If my rapid precis doesn’t float your boat, here’s another more considered version: . Even the NHS Careers web site offers better guidance but it confesses openly that “There are no set entry requirements to become a receptionist.”.  What, no medical training at all?  So how the sweet jesus are they supposed to “decide which patients should see the GP and how urgently”?  Of course, they are not and they never were but this muppet out of kindergarten who doesn’t realise the position of responsibility he/she assumes when charged with writing factual information on the BBC news web site couldn’t be expected to know that, could they?  I mean, it took almost two minutes of my time to dig that up for you.

If the receptionist fails in any part of the above, it is the practice that is responsible and it is to them that the complaint and the remedy falls.  Individuals, of course, should take personal responsibility in all things but perhaps we’ll have to wait another millennium or two for that one.

It is that very thing, though, that we as users of these services must understand because we have a responsibility to ourselves, foremost and to society in general.  Our bodies and our health are our personal responsibility, we should never outsource that to the NHS or to anyone else.  Learn about your symptoms, your condition, about health in general and when all your research and contemplation tells you that this is something for which you feel you need of the services of an expert,  doctor or a nurse, then go and get it.  (I would add, be prepared to pay for it but that leads us into a diversionary debate).


Once upon a time this was very difficult to achieve but not any more, every aspect of human knowledge lies at our fingertips.  In their spare time, perhaps receptionists could assist more qualified educationalists to hold classes teaching those that were also failed by our education “system” how to competently go about that research.  Now there’s a thought, if you want your public to have better health and to ease the demands on the NHS, train them.

I am delighted to see that this BBC news item is flagged as “trending”, thus indicating how many people felt the headline touched on something they have experience of.  I’ve been talking about it for over thirty years, perhaps in another thirty, something might improve and I won’t delay eighteen months before seeking medical treatment for my lung cancer.

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