Patient reduced to tears by GP receptionist

GP receptionists need to be more ’empathetic’ to fearful and anxious patients, an adviser has said. It comes as NHS officials have raised concerns that GP practice staff have been abused by members of the public during the pandemic – with 12 official incidents of abuse reported in Staffordshire since October 2021.

But members of Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s Oversight Committee say bad behavior can go ‘both ways’, with reception staff sometimes not understanding things from the patient’s perspective. The Social Care, Health Integration and Adult Wellbeing Committee has been told the local NHS has been working to address the issue of staff abuse through the Together Against Abuse campaign, during an update on access to primary care.

Lynn Millar, executive director of primary care for Staffordshire Clinical Commissioning Groups, also told advisers how additional training had been provided to reception staff, which included ‘de-escalation’ techniques. But committee vice-chair Maxine Clark believes receptionists also need to be better trained to respond to patients who may be frightened and stressed, StokeLive reported.

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She told the meeting how she herself had been treated in a ‘shameful’ manner after being reduced to tears during her doctor’s office reception. Ms Clark said: “I know you said receptionists go through de-escalation training, and I know they’re abused, but I think it goes both ways.

“Are they trained to understand and deal with fear, trauma, anxiety? I’ve had quite a few troubling conversations with residents that I didn’t fully understand until I made experience myself, to the point that I filed a complaint with my law firm.

“I actually cried at the reception because it was so bad and the way I was treated was shameful. It’s just about empathy. It’s about seeing someone stand there who did it all and who’s scared. It’s really not acceptable – I know they have a really hard job.

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“But I wonder if they have any training in how fear can present itself and how anxious people can be.”

Ms Millar pointed out that GP reception staff often had a very difficult role, despite being among the lowest paid primary care workers. But she agreed that the type of training Ms. Clark had suggested would be a good idea.

She said: “Before Covid we started some work on triage and how reception staff can manage patients. But I don’t think we’ve done anything specifically around things like l anxiety, and I think that’s a really good idea actually.”

Ms Millar also told the committee that there were 331,676 GP consultations in December 2021 – including face-to-face and remote appointments – 8% more than in December 2019. most GP practices had restored the ratio of face-to-face consultations to around 60%, a minority were still lagging behind on this – an issue the GCC was seeking to address.

Ms Millar said: “Some have become accustomed to a way of working, some have been affected by illness. It may be a small partnership and they may be struggling with social distancing.

“There are a lot of different reasons, it’s not just that they don’t want to have more face-to-face, maybe they’re physically constrained. We know who they are, and we’re working with them to answer this.”

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