TRYING to get an appointment to see your doctor can be an absolute nightmare.
You have to call bang on 8am and even then there’s no guarantee you’ll nab a slot.
But one staff member who has the inside track has now revealed how appointments are really allocated.
Speaking to The Sun, one GP receptionist, who wants to remain anonymous, says if she could, she would give everyone an appointment.
She has worked at a practice in Cheshire for the last three years and previously worked at an opticians and says there’s a huge difference in the way people treat you in the health system.
“People think we are a barrier between them and the doctors; we are seen as bulldogs,” she explains.
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Answering phones, checking in patients and organising records at one of the biggest surgeries in the area, she admits there are never enough appointments.
“It’s probably one of my biggest frustrations and is obviously frustrating for the patients.
“It’s hard for everyone to get an appointment on the day they call up.
“We have to say no a lot, and you just dread it,” she says.
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Allocating appointments is tough, and the receptionist says they are only given a certain amount of face to face slots with the GP each day, depending on how many practitioners are working.
“We have to account for GP sickness, holidays and you’re talking about 30 appointments for one doctor each day.
“When you log into the system and you see there are hardly any appointments available that day, you just get a sinking feeling,” she says.
It’s at this point, when there simply aren’t enough appointments to give out to people that patients can become difficult, she says.
So how do they decide who does and doesn’t get an appointment?
“They call, we triage the call and assess the symptoms, ask what’s the matter.
“With time and training you work out what symptoms need to be seen and which don’t.
“If we are unsure then we will always get advice from higher up, whether that be the reception manager or a doctor.”
The receptionist says the most urgent cases are always prioritised.
Imagine if it was your son or daughter on the end of the phone. We are humans, we take stuff home.
For example, if someone calls up complaining about acne on the same day a parent calls up wanting help for their baby with a bad chest, the baby will take priority.
Once the receptionist has worked out the best course of action, the patient will be placed with either a doctor or nurse.
“It’s awful because nurses are talked down to and people will often demand to see a doctor,” she says.
“Nurses can pretty much deal with everything a doctor can, apart from mental health issues and sick notes.
“Patients don’t really like it, but they will be getting the right treatment.”
The receptionist says it’s very rare that they will have to hang up on a patient, but sometimes it really is the only course of action.
“Sometimes they are screaming and shouting at you.
“You just have to be calm and tell them to be respectful to you. Even when people are being rude to us, we just want to do the best for them.
“We get sworn at a lot,”she adds.
Patients tend to get aggressive if they can’t be seen on the day they ring up.
Quite often, people are offered a call with a doctor in three weeks’ time and this can lead to receptionists being shouted at.
'NOT FOR THE WEAK HEARTED'
“You just don’t know what you’re going to walk into each day.
“We don’t go into the job to be abused and we just want to make people’s lives easier.
“We try our best to be understanding, but everywhere is the same.
“It’s the same 8am rule and people think they will never get through – but they do and they are given appointments.”
She added that many people don’t understand how tough it is to be a GP receptionist.
“You’ve got to be thick-skinned if you want to do this job, it’s not for the weak-hearted,” she says.
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“You think you’re helping the NHS and you’re helping people.
“Imagine if it was your son or daughter on the end of the phone. We are humans, we take stuff home.”
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