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Seeing the GP: Advice and tips for young people

Receptionists and touchscreen check-in at GP surgeries

Here, people talk about:

•    the role of the receptionist
•    positive experiences of receptionists
•    bad experiences
•    confidentiality and privacy
•    touchscreen check-in
•    young people’s messages to receptionists

The role of the receptionist
Receptionists are an important link with the practice (surgery or health centre) and are the first people to contact for general enquiries. They can give basic information on services, and direct patients to the right person depending on the health problem or query. Receptionists may:

•    book appointments for patients in person or over the phone
•    enter patients’ details onto computer systems 
•    direct patients where to go within the surgery
•    answer queries from patients and other staff
•    deal with prescription enquiries and print repeat prescriptions 
•    manage patient records 

Positive experiences of receptionists
Auberon recalled that all the receptionists at his local surgery were friendly and knew him by name. Jake said that the receptionists at his health centre ‘have always been nice’, as had the GPs.
 

A receptionist is the first person a patient sees. When receptionists give a good impression, it gives a good impression of the whole surgery.

A receptionist is the first person a patient sees. When receptionists give a good impression, it gives a good impression of the whole surgery.

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What are the receptionists like?

From what I remember they're quite nice, just a couple of old – not that old women just there. A couple of women – they’ve…yeah they’ve always been nice.

Yeah, you’ve never had a…any unfriendly ones at all?

No.

No. Have you come across any unfriendly doctors at all?

No, no I haven’t.

Or have they been quite good and [talked together].

Yeah which is…yeah it's good. I think if you are an unfriendly doctor it's not very nice I suppose.

Is there any message or advice you would want to give to receptionists at the surgery?

Just be friendly again. You know like try and come across as nice as you can cos like, you know, cos you're welcoming like… they're the first person you're going to talk to you when you go into the surgery so. If they give… if they give a good impression then it's going to give a good impression for the rest of the surgery.
Shane said the receptionists at his local practice were friendly and he ‘nearly ended up getting a pet cat from them because one of the receptionists had kittens.’ Tagbo praised the receptionists at the surgery he went to for being good and reassuring.
 

The receptionists are always polite. They can ‘lighten up your day’ which is comforting when you don’t know how the appointment will go.

The receptionists are always polite. They can ‘lighten up your day’ which is comforting when you don’t know how the appointment will go.

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How have the receptionists come across to you when you’ve gone to the doctors?

They're always…they're always polite and always make you feel at home, always ask you questions about how you're doing, yeah. It's nice to having a receptionist there because it, because when you enter the…for your appointment, you don’t know how it's going to turn out. And for you to have a receptionist there just to lighten up your day, it's really, it’s just really nice and really comforting.

Yeah. That’s a really important point that you're talking about here. That you're not sure about the outcome of the appointment?

Yeah.

So the manner of the receptionists, how they speak to you, makes a big difference?

Yeah, definitely.

And you said they speak to you, they ask questions. Have you seen the same receptionists there at the surgery as well over the years or does it change?

I think they do change; they change, yeah. Every time I pop in another day and maybe another receptionist but usually they alternate, so yeah.

And have they always been friendly like that?

Yes

No exceptions?

No exceptions, no.
Emma and Jalé felt that some receptionists were better and friendlier than others, and Lucy that some were friendly and approachable but others ‘are just arsey about [repeat prescriptions]. Like some are really lovely and they’ll sort it out straight away. But others are just like, “Oh, you should have put in your repeat prescription.”’
 

Some receptionists are very welcoming. Others come across as if they’re having a bad day. A welcoming receptionist might help an anxious patient feel less worried.

Some receptionists are very welcoming. Others come across as if they’re having a bad day. A welcoming receptionist might help an anxious patient feel less worried.

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I’ve been in surgeries where, you know, you’re very welcomed and, you know, it’s obviously, they’re just a nice person [laughs], which is great. And then there’s, I’ve been in places where it’s, you know, “Yeah, fill in the form. Sit down.” 

And I think it does make a bit of a difference because, you know, it’s our health at the end of the day. And it’s, you know, something that is very precious and is also very important to each one of us. And, to kind of, be greeted sometimes by someone who, you know, is maybe not having a good day or whatever’s going on in their lives, you know, they’ve taken it to work and they’re portraying that energy, I think sometimes isn’t the most useful. But how can you control that? [laughs]

Well, if you had a chance to say something to a receptionist at a health centre now, what would it be?

Oh, I mean obviously I understand that you can’t smile 24 hours a day [laughs]. But I think, yeah, it would be really hard on your manners. But I don’t know, I just think there’s a certain kind of air, like there’s an air of welcomingness I think that you can give off that... Cos I think a lot of people, not myself, but a lot of people do get anxious about going to GP surgeries. And to then be greeted by a cold, kind of abrupt person, I guess that might exasperate that anxiousness. 

And, you know, as I say, that’s not, I’m not talking about myself. But I think I can definitely see how maybe just the odd kind of, appreciation of, “Yeah, here’s a pen to fill that out’ or, you know, blah, blah, blah. I think just kind of maybe a bit more effective communication wouldn’t go amiss.
Ish, who works in a customer service role, said: ‘I can’t really say anything bad about them because they are like customer service on some level. And just based on my own work, I know that you tend to get a little frustrated after a while. But you shouldn’t be really showing it.’ He felt that receptionists have a hard job trying to please everyone, especially if patients are rude.
 

It can be frustrating working with people but receptionists and other customer service staff shouldn’t show it. It’s better to be ‘nicer’ even if it’s a bad day.

It can be frustrating working with people but receptionists and other customer service staff shouldn’t show it. It’s better to be ‘nicer’ even if it’s a bad day.

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Is the receptionist the first person you speak to? Do you have to check in?

Ah yeah, when you go in, she’s the first person I have to speak to every time. So, yeah.

And what was that like? Were they friendly? Were they approachable?

I really think, I mean I can’t really say anything bad about them because they are like customer service on some level. And just based on my own work I know that you tend to get a little frustrated after a while. But you shouldn’t be really showing it. So they try to be nice. But sometimes it’s really like you can tell they’re just like, “Get out of here.” Basically, that attitude. So that’s a little bit bad.

So how could your experiences with the receptionist be improved? If you could say something to them now, what would you say?

Try to be a little bit nicer. We all have bad days. We all deal with people. I deal with customers, angry customers too, all the time. Just don’t look at that side of it. So cheering up people is a lot better and you’re helping people. So that’s worth it and then you should just think about that. You’re always going to have rude people in your life to deal with. Just get over it. 
Bad experiences
Some of the people we talked to recalled negative experiences with some receptionists. Louis, for example, felt that some were ‘condescending’, and Simon that some were abrupt when they should have been more sensitive and approachable:
 

Little comments that Simon overheard about him and other young people made him feel like avoiding some receptionists. It’s off-putting when they’re rude.

Little comments that Simon overheard about him and other young people made him feel like avoiding some receptionists. It’s off-putting when they’re rude.

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Sometimes, you know, trying to get through the admin team. Sometimes that can be a challenge. And it can be frustrating when you ring up and you get quite an abrupt response, which is not something you wanted, you know, you’re there to try and get the problem that you’ve got sorted, and you’ve just got this bit of barrier straight away. Which has happened frequently. It’s happening to a lesser extent now I’ve got to admit. And that’s something like a block, and sometimes you think, ‘Is it worth going back?’ Sometimes I think, ‘Well I’ll just not go back.’ Perhaps because you just feel uneasy. So that’s one time really. 

Do you think that you get treated differently because you’re really young or do you think it’s easier for older people or, or it’s just….?

I do think, I’ve had, I’ve had a comment a few times that young people are cheeky, or not got good manners. And that’s not applicable to all young people.

Was that from a receptionist?

Yeah, and I’ve heard it from receptions saying, “Young people, and you know saying about arthritis, and sometimes, “Well, arthritis. He looks absolutely fine.”

You’ve heard that?

Yeah, I’ve heard that and just little comments when you’re sat down and you can hear over the counter and you’re thinking, you know, ‘I have, I have got it.’ You know, it’s an invisible illness, like a lot of people have invisible illnesses. And it’s sometimes little comments that were perhaps were meant with no, you know, no malice, but sometimes that can stick in the head, you know in the head of the patient. 

And I’ve, you know I’ve had a few comments that really stick in your mind really. And just impressions as well, you know, that they just stick. And there’s perhaps a couple of receptionists who I try to avoid because I know they’ve just got a bit of an abrupt tone really, which is, is not really good when you’re in a capacity of being a receptionist and the first person patients see when they come to a GP surgery.
Ambeya felt that receptionists at her local surgery ‘don’t follow their job description’ – they were often rude instead of polite. Peter, like a few people we spoke to, felt that some receptionists gave the impression that they didn’t enjoy their job, maybe because they were busy and under-staffed.
 

Receptionists in any job should be friendly as they’re the first face a person sees. They may be busy but it’s rude to answer the phone while talking to a patient.

Receptionists in any job should be friendly as they’re the first face a person sees. They may be busy but it’s rude to answer the phone while talking to a patient.

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Well I personally think a receptionist at any job should have the same qualities, because I remember I had a part-time job as a receptionist in my secondary school, and all receptionists should have the same qualities because at the end of the day you're the first point of contact, so you have to be friendly because you're the first face that someone sees. So, I just think receptionists should just all have the same attitude. 

But I think, I personally think receptionists at GPs that don’t follow their job description…because you know on a job description it says what skills you should have, and I don’t think receptionists at the GP have been trained with those skills.

So the ideal receptionist will be friendly, approachable…?

Yeah.

Good communication skills, is that important?

Definitely and just being polite. Yeah and not having personal distractions get in the way of how you communicate with patients.

Do you ever talk to receptionists and they're sort of on the phone and doing something else while they're trying to kind of help you as well?

Yeah. Well at the end of the day I understand that it might be…feel intimidating to them because they're on the phone to someone, and then you're just staring right in their face waiting for an appointment. So I do understand that it is intimidating for receptionists, but at the same time receptionists should know…I don’t know, they should…because they're so used to it they should be able to find ways to end up dealing with it which I don’t think they do. 

Because now I know that…no, I think the rudest thing ever is when…so they’ve finished making a phone call, and then you're there waiting or saying, "Oh hi, can I book an appointment please." And then the phone rings again, and then they’ll pick up the phone call over you – I think that’s rude. I think they should finish your conversation first and put the phone call on hold, yeah.
 

Peter finds the receptionists ‘quite harsh’ and doesn’t like speaking to them. Patients might be feeling nervous so receptionists should be friendly and helpful.

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Peter finds the receptionists ‘quite harsh’ and doesn’t like speaking to them. Patients might be feeling nervous so receptionists should be friendly and helpful.

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Have you spoken to any of the receptionists when you’ve gone with your mum or how's it been?

Yeah, I've spoken to them a few times and they're quite harsh and you don’t really want to speak to them. They almost push you out of the way and, if you're trying to arrange an appointment, then it can often be quite difficult because they're not particularly helpful because if you want to do an appointment then often it mucks up their timetable that they’ve put in. And so you don’t really enjoy speaking to them in that way. 

How could they be better? What would the ideal receptionist be like? So if they were going to improve on their services what would be the ideal receptionist?

Sort of just one that was more helpful and wants to be there because often they feel – you get the impression that they don’t really enjoy what they're doing. And so it's best if they …and I think often they might be under-staffed and so they're doing too much and they're quite stressed. And so they don’t want…you're intruding on what they're doing and so they don’t want you to be there.

Yeah. So, if you were going to give a message to receptionists cos they want to improve what they do, what message would you give to them?

Just to sort of be friendly because everyone who's going there is normally quite nervous themselves and so…or they're quite bored and they don’t want to be there. So just sort of not be so, so brisk and just push people away; just be sort of, you know, more helpful in that way.
Vinay recalled that some receptionists were okay but others came across as ‘very, very cold’, and he felt that they must work under a huge amount of pressure. Several people agreed it must sometimes be a difficult and frustrating job.
 

Vinay understands that receptionists work under pressure and have to deal with complaining patients. But it’s important to be sympathetic and welcoming.

Vinay understands that receptionists work under pressure and have to deal with complaining patients. But it’s important to be sympathetic and welcoming.

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Do you go to a reception desk or do you have to tap into a machine?

There, I think there’s a bit of both really. Some places obviously there’s a machine that you can find yourself on, and some places you go to the desk and check in.

Yeah. How, what’s your experience been of the receptionists at the desk, you know the GP’s surgery?

Some of them are, some of them are okay and some of them can be very, very cold I think in many cases. But, like I say, I understand a lot of pressure is put on them and they’re seeing so many people who all are complaining about their issues, so I can understand that they almost shut off to an extent.

If you were going to give any message or advice or tips to them, say they were going to have some training or something like that, you know in terms of improving, what message or advice would you give to the receptionists?

The only thing I can say is they have, I can understand the need to almost shut off and not become too involved. But I think with the same token with the doctors, they need to sympathise, that there are people who have got issues. Some of these issues may be just benign and not that important in their minds, but I think pain is subjective and if it’s something that’s bothering an individual, they just need to be a bit more sympathetic towards it. 

And I think if they’re maybe a little bit more welcoming, even if they don’t generally mean it, if they come across originally as more welcoming I think for some reason that can be more comforting. And some of the negativity and some of the feelings that you have that are synonymous with pain may, you know, lessen. And I think you might feel more comfortable being in the doctors’ environment rather than having a cold sort of, “Yeah, just sit down.” Which some of them may do.
Confidentiality and privacy
Receptionists are never told of a patient’s confidential consultations (appointments), but they do have access to people’s records so that they can type letters and carry out other admin duties. They’re not allowed to look at patients’ notes for any other purpose, and nor are they allowed to discuss any information about patients outside work. Sometimes receptionists might ask a patient about the reason for their visit so they can direct them to the best person, whether that’s a GP, nurse, or another member of the team. Emma felt uncomfortable when receptionists at the surgery asked her why she needed to see the GP, though found it less awkward when she was making an appointment over the phone. Ambeya felt that there was ‘no confidentiality’ when she phoned for an appointment and receptionists asked why she wanted it. Louis suggested that if a receptionist knows the patient personally, they should ask a different receptionist to deal with them to ensure confidentiality.
 

The receptionist asks Ambeya why she wants an appointment and then decides if she needs to see the GP or speak to the doctor over the phone.

The receptionist asks Ambeya why she wants an appointment and then decides if she needs to see the GP or speak to the doctor over the phone.

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It's now got to the point where we can't even…there's no confidentiality involved – the receptionist picks up and we have to tell her over the phone what the problem is. And then they’ll ask the doctor if we need a call-back to come in, or if we need a prescription. 

So I think confidentiality barriers just… has disappeared which there was before, because before we could just book in an appointment and then we'd go and see the doctor, tell them our problems, but now it has to go through a receptionist. 

And obviously receptionists at GPs, they're like the worst… they're the most… I think they're the worst people ever. Because they're the first point of contact in the GP but they bring this negative vibe. And I think they just… they just want to get on with their job because they have to be there from eight o'clock in the morning just picking up phone calls and stuff. So I think it's the receptionists that start off the negativity and at these GPs, and then again they just try and rush as much as possible because they’ve got more patients to see.

Mm. So when you call said that you'd speak to the receptionist?

Yeah

And you're saying that they always ask you about what you're there for?

Yeah

So how does that make you feel having to tell them; having to tell a receptionist rather than a doctor what you're going to see them for?

Well it's uncomfortable because they… well obviously it's obvious that they have to… they’ve got a certain thing they need to say on the phone. When they call up they have to say, "Oh OK what do you need to see the doctor for?" Or "Is it an emergency?" So they make it feel uncomfortable, and then when it gets like in… it could like the illness, or whatever we're suffering from, could be something serious, but they don’t think it's serious. 

So it's just… it's quite, I don’t know, I feel quiet overwhelmed when, at the end, they say, "Oh it's not something important, you don’t need to see a doctor for it." Or "We'll get your doctor to call you back because they might be able to prescribe you with a prescription." And I think the fact that now we have to do like stuff that was face-to-face before is now over the phone, it's just weird. 
Jalé felt that a few receptionists gave her ‘a grilling’ before booking her an appointment. Occasionally she told the receptionist that the reason for her visit was private when she didn’t want to give this information out loud in a busy surgery. Aphra, on the other hand, found that, although she lived in a small village where many people knew each other, the receptionists always ensured patients’ privacy.
 

Patients may feel stressed and rushed sometimes. It’s quicker to get the process done when the receptionist is calm and understanding.

Patients may feel stressed and rushed sometimes. It’s quicker to get the process done when the receptionist is calm and understanding.

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I think there's only one…there's only one, or possibly two, receptionists that if I see at the desk in the morning I think, 'Oh this is going…you know this…I'm going to get quite a grilling before she even thinks about typing my date of birth in.' And you know what's going on. And it's reached a point where I think it's either difficult. Before I know only one… there's one appointment that I asked, and she said, "What, you know what's wrong?" And I said, "It’s private." And she said, "Fine." And she got on with what she was doing. 

But there's one or two that if I think, if I said that, I would feel like there would still be another question, there would still be something else. And obviously that’s not pleasant for anyone in general. And so I find that quite difficult because it's kind of like very snappy and kind of de de de, getting on with it de de de. 

And but then on the other hand… on other occasions, you know, somebody can sit in and she's like, "OK what can I do for you today de de de?" And that just makes it just easier to kind of… even just think straight off what's going on. 
Because if somebody's snapping at you, you're trying to get answers quickly, it constantly frazzles you and you don’t really think about what's going on. But someone clearly looks like they're understanding what you're going… and just, you know trying to ask you generally what's the problem de de de. You just kind of get the process done actually quicker because you're not then stressing and thinking. And when they're going, "Oh, well next time he's free is on de de de," and you're trying to think what am I doing that day, or what… you know you haven’t got your calendar straight out or something like that. 

Then you're just constantly feeling like even at reception you're on the clock, and you can't even think to say, "Is that a date that I'm even free?" so you say yes to something, and then think, 'Oh, I'm not even free that day, but now I've said it, and if I don’t go that day I'm not being seen so I have to go.' So I do think it's really important, as a receptionist even to take just that bit… just you know, because the calmer you are, the calmer the person is to actually be able to work out what they're trying to get across. 
 

The receptionists move along the desk if someone wants to talk privately. They’re friendly and often remember Aphra’s name.

The receptionists move along the desk if someone wants to talk privately. They’re friendly and often remember Aphra’s name.

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The reception area is really obvious and really clear. And they have all the signs that say, 'Please wait behind this point, and respect each other's privacy.' And it's a very kind of open and sweeping reception desk. So even if there's somebody talking to the other receptionist, you're not too close. So if you need to say something that you feel a bit more embarrassed about, then you can do. But if you wanted to talk to the receptionist in private, then they’ll move you along further still, just so that no one else can hear what you're saying.

Has that situation ever come about where you’ve kind of felt, 'Oh I wonder if everybody can hear me, and can we move along so that it's a bit more private?'

It's not happened for me, but I've been in the queue when somebody has said, "Oh actually can we, you know…" Or "I don’t want these people to hear." And there's never any look of irritation on the receptionists face, they are really happy to just keep everyone happy as it were.

So have you found them to be friendly and approachable?

They're really friendly and they don’t always manage, but they do their best to kind of remember your name, especially if you go in quite often. So sometimes it's those little things of going, even if it's just where you’ve gone and given them a piece of paper, they go, "Oh thanks very much." You know they might have just read your name off the screen, but it's those little touches that actually make you feel like you're a human being and not just another one of the masses.
Sarah also lived in a small village for a while and felt there was a lack of privacy when checking in with a receptionist. The reception desk and waiting area were in one room so other people could often overhear conversations with receptionists. She would prefer to be able to point to a general health issue on a form (e.g. mental health, contraception, asthma) than say out aloud why she wants to see the GP. She also felt that the waiting room and reception desk should be separate to allow patients privacy:
 

Someone who wants to see the GP about mental health might not want to tell the receptionist or want other patients to hear their conversation.

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Someone who wants to see the GP about mental health might not want to tell the receptionist or want other patients to hear their conversation.

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I don’t know how this would work in practice. It would be good to have the receptionists as a way into the waiting room, so you talk to receptionist and go and sit in the waiting room, which is slightly separate so you’re not hearing people talking about what’s going on. You’re more with them. It’s more like a gatekeeper to the room to go in. 

And maybe, I guess the reasons, you can probably trace the reasons back why they’re overworked due to ridiculous cuts to the NHS. But I think if you had more time to train people to spend more time talking to people at the reception, which they’re never going to have I guess because everything’s getting tighter, that would be good. But I don’t think its nasty people, I think it’s just they’ve got to get through a list. 

Something you said that was interesting was they often asked you why you were going to see the doctor. 

Yeah. 

And you would have preferred maybe a list of things, it’s around this issue. 

So they have a list on the desk that says, “Are you coming to see the doctor about any of these issues? Contraceptive pill, rash”, whatever, and they are there on a list. And if you say yes, they send you to a nurse. Whereas if you say no they say, “What’s the issue about?” And if it’s a mental health issue, often you don’t want to say that. Well not just mental health, any issue you might not want to say. And you, I know you don’t have to say and I know that there’s a reason why they ask, but it’s a bit weird having that, sometimes it’s quite forced I think.
Touchscreen check-in 
In many GP surgeries, people can check in by putting in their details on a touchscreen. Some people we talked to checked in digitally. Paula found it convenient because the receptionists were often busy and had a long queue of people waiting to see them. She also liked that it was private.
 

Paula puts in her personal details and the screen shows her the appointment time and GP’s name. She’s never seen anyone she knows at the surgery.

Paula puts in her personal details and the screen shows her the appointment time and GP’s name. She’s never seen anyone she knows at the surgery.

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Do you ever use the digital check-in?

Yeah, that’s the only place that I check in. Because usually the receptionist isn’t there or she’s busy or there’s a long queue. So just go and check in at the screen.

Can you just walk me through what it’s like to, what you do when you go to one of these. Is it a machine, is it a computer, what would you have to do?

Yeah, it’s a touchscreen like screen. And you, it asks you about your birthday, male or female. I think, no, it doesn’t ask you about your postcode. And then it says, “You have an appointment with blah blah. Please wait upstairs or downstairs.” And then there’s a button to close the screen. And then it just goes back to the home page.

Do you ever worry when you’re checking in that someone else is looking over your shoulder and seeing what you’re typing in?

Not really. I don’t really...

You think it’s quite private?

Yeah.

That’s good. And have you ever run into anybody that you know in the GP’s?

No, never.
Lucy felt that, although the receptionists she’d spoken to were ‘nice’, she was ‘just quite awkward with people in general’ and disliked small-talk. One of the benefits of touchscreen check-in was ‘less human interaction’, and Simon said it was often quicker and better if he was a bit ‘groggy’ in the morning. Some people who were concerned about privacy and confidentiality preferred checking in digitally because they didn’t like being asked questions by receptionists. For Louis, the touchscreen was a good option for people ‘if maybe they don’t want to speak to the receptionists, a person, they might feel like they’re judging them’.
 

The receptionists are ‘usually alright’ but sometimes might seem ‘a bit condescending’. Young people might dislike being asked why they want to see the GP or may know the receptionist.

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The receptionists are ‘usually alright’ but sometimes might seem ‘a bit condescending’. Young people might dislike being asked why they want to see the GP or may know the receptionist.

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And obviously yeah, like the keyboard kiosk thingy, that’s quite good cos if maybe they don’t want to speak to the receptionist, a person, they might feel like they're judging them, so if they have like the keyboard it's just easier to sign in and stuff.

Do you feel that young people are more comfortable kind of signing in rather than having to speak to a receptionist?

Definitely, yeah.

Yeah. Do you think there's any reasons for that if the doctors are trying to understand what are the reasons and what can we do to help?

Yeah. Maybe if they think…maybe they're a bit condescending, the receptionist, or a bit cold. Or maybe they [the patient] just don’t want to speak to a human being, they just want it…just want to speak to the doctor – you know they might be scared, they might ask them about what they're going to see the doctor about, or if they know the receptionist as well.

Have you had any instances where you’ve had, you know, had any opinions about the receptionist?

Sometimes they can be a bit rude, well seem a bit rude on the phone, but usually they're alright to be honest.
Ambeya, who ‘hated’ talking to receptionists, preferred the touchscreen check-in and said that the screen in her area allowed people to check-in in several different languages:
 

Patients can choose which language they want use to check-in. GPs and patients where Ambeya lives come from many different communities.

Patients can choose which language they want use to check-in. GPs and patients where Ambeya lives come from many different communities.

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Do you have to check in with the receptionist?

Yeah, but I hate it so much and I'm so glad that they’ve got the touchscreen version where you can you just enter yourself into there because they’ve got like this touchscreen which identifies that you’ve booked an appointment. So I think that is so much easier than having to stand there with a receptionist who's just like had an argument with someone on the phone, and then they'd say, "Oh hi I'm here for an appointment" because they would just take that anger out on you. So yeah, I prefer the system where it says, 'Touch to enter.'

Mm is it just one of those that you kind of check in your date of birth?

Yeah and then it says, 'Your waiting area's upstairs' yeah.

Do a lot of people make use of the electronic version?

Sometimes they do. Well at the start, I remember when they first made it, it was just pure English. So we have a lot of foreigners and stuff in our area, so they don’t really understand how the system works, but it's good that they’ve got translations and now you can change the translation.

Oh that’s really interesting, that’s really good.

Yeah, so like at the beginning where it says, 'Touch to enter', it's got the touch buttons of every other language…like ten languages or something, so you could change the language as well to make it easier for you.

Do you know if that’s the case with GPs, do the GPs speak some kind of common languages that are…?

I think so. In like our GP, I'm pretty sure like all the doctors are from different backgrounds. Yeah there's a variety…there's a mix yeah. So I think what…I think in our GPs I think they try and allocate a doctor which is similar to your family background. So, even though our doctors have changed now, I think that’s how it worked before because I'm pretty sure we had an Asian doctor, yeah.
Isaac, who hated machines, found the touchscreen annoying but understood why he had to use it. Everyone at his local surgery had to check-in digitally unless they couldn’t for health reasons.
 

Isaac doesn’t like the digital check-in. The receptionists in his practice were ‘nice enough’ but it could be hard to get their attention.

Isaac doesn’t like the digital check-in. The receptionists in his practice were ‘nice enough’ but it could be hard to get their attention.

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Oh they have this annoying machine on the wall that’s like a self-check-in thing, and basically you need to use it unless you have a reason you can't use it, like arthritis or blindness or something you can't use the machine. But if you can, like me being seventeen at the time, you had to use the check-in machine and, oh god there was no-one even at the …no-one like…there was the person behind the counter but they didn’t have anyone with them, but they couldn’t see to me. I had to use the machine which, although I suppose is keeping up with the time it's…I hate machines. So yes they could…it was less person and friendly but fair enough they had to do it, but yeah.

Did you know that there would be this machine there, was that all changed since you last....

No [laughs], no, I went, I went to the counter; they said, "There's the machine, use the machine." You had to sort of use the machine.

How was the person at the counter, the receptionist?

They were nice enough I suppose. Just sort of looked up and sort of went, "Machine." And then sort of…a bit more information than, you know they said, "Well you have to check in with the machine now, we can't really do it." And then went back to whatever they were doing.

Would you say they were friendly and welcoming or were they just doing…?

They were doing their job. They were friendly enough I suppose. They didn’t ignore me and they didn’t have a really gruff, annoyed tone to their voice. So I suppose I can't really ask for much more, so yeah.

If they were gonna give any tips or advice to receptionists all over the country -

It would be pay less attention to probably whatever you're doing – probably your Sudoku – and pay attention to the person whose just come up to the counter before they have to like clear their throat or bang on the desk to try and get your attention. Pay more attention to your job which is to be at the counter.

Did you have to try and get her attention?

I had to do the pretend coughing, clear your throat thing, which I didn’t think I'd have to do but I had to do.
Young people’s messages to receptionists
The people we talked to offered different kinds of advice based on their experiences, while recognising that being a receptionist was not an easy job. Here are some of their suggestions:

•    it’s important to be welcoming 

Some of the receptionists at Aphra’s surgery remembered her name and ‘those little touches that actually make you feel like you're a human being and not just another one of the masses’.

•    little things make a difference like being friendly and helpful
•    being polite and understanding is important
 

It’s good if receptionists can ‘fuse friendliness with efficiency’.

It’s good if receptionists can ‘fuse friendliness with efficiency’.

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I remember the nurses and receptionists when I was younger being very friendly. And it seems to have changed style, like they seem to be more like trying to get people moving now than they used to be.

Do you think that could be improved at all?

I guess they could fuse the friendliness with the efficiency, but that I think is better that they do get people moving, particularly since there’s a lot more larger volumes of people going to GP’s now.

That’s quite interesting that you say infuse the friendliness with the efficiency, so would you say those for all the health professionals and receptionists are very good qualities, being efficient and friendly as well with it?

Not over friendly I guess, but just like engaging with you rather than just...
•    it’s important to be compassionate ‘to everyone, because you’ve no idea what someone’s going through. Everyone’s going through something.’ (Sarah)
•    be patient with people who are nervous or stutter 
•    a sympathetic approach could help patients feel a bit better (Vinay)
•    people don’t go to the GP because they want to: ‘A smile can mean a thousand words really. It can make someone feel so much better just by the way they look at them. So it’s just really to think how you would look on the other side of the window really, if you was going to the appointment. Just to welcome patients and make them feel comfortable.’ (Simon)
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