I started working at John Hampden Surgery in Prestwood 5½ years ago. It was a convenient, local, part-time job after 20+ years working for BT.

I generally enjoy the challenges. We are a small team of doctors, nurses and admin staff at the surgery and we all support one another. I have some lovely colleagues and the feedback we get shows how much our surgery is appreciated by the local community.

However, to be honest, it is not all plain sailing. Reception staff are the first point of contact for people who want to see their GP so when we are unable to give them an appointment, this can be very stressful for patients and for us too. And there are times when a very small number of patients can make our work much harder. We understand that being ill can be very difficult and we do sympathise with our patients. But it would help if everyone understood the pressures on GPs and on us.

GPs are busy people – even more so nowadays. Our GPs already work very long hours so it is important that they only see those patients who need their expertise. This is why we advise those with minor ailments to visit their local pharmacy as this would be much quicker and just as helpful. And while our GPs also have a limited number of urgent appointments each day, these should go to patients who really need them.

We also know that some patients find it very difficult when we ask them to tell us the nature of their illness. As receptionists, we cannot and do not make clinical judgements about whether a patient should see a doctor or not. However, at the same time, our GPs do expect us to talk to patients and ask them questions to confirm that seeing or speaking to a doctor is necessary. We do this because sometimes, for example, one of our nurses can help. We do try our very best to support our patients in a constructive and sympathetic way. Many patients understand this and all goes well. Unfortunately, a few think we are being unhelpful and that we are trying to block their access to the right care. And this really is not what we are trying to do.

All the reception staff at John Hampden Surgery are now being trained as care navigators. This training is giving us additional knowledge to help guide or signpost patients to a range of specialist services or organisations so that they get the appropriate advice, care and treatment, no matter what their needs. We hope our patients understand that with this training, we have the expertise to give sound advice.

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