Re­cep­tion­ists ‘put peo­ple off see­ing doc­tor’

Malta Independent - - HEALTH -

Re­cep­tion­ists quizzing pa­tients about why they need to see their GP could be putting some sick peo­ple off vis­it­ing their surgery, a sur­vey sug­gests.

Of al­most 2,000 adults ques­tioned for Can­cer Re­search UK, four in 10 said they dis­liked hav­ing to dis­cuss their ills with of­fice staff in or­der to get an ap­point­ment.

Many were wor­ried about mak­ing a fuss.

Ex­perts say pa­tients must be force­ful and not take no for an an­swer if they have symp­toms that need in­ves­ti­gat­ing.

The gov­ern­ment says it is fund­ing training to help re­cep­tion­ists learn how to be sen­si­tive to pa­tients’ needs.

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.

In the sur­vey, the top three bar­ri­ers to see­ing a GP were: • dif­fi­culty get­ting an ap­point­ment

with a par­tic­u­lar doc­tor (41.8%) • dif­fi­culty get­ting an ap­point­ment

at a con­ve­nient time (41.5%) • dis­like of hav­ing to speak to the GP re­cep­tion­ist about symp­toms (39.5%) Around a third of the pa­tients in­ter­viewed were also con­cerned that they might be neg­a­tively viewed as the type of per­son who makes a fuss, the Jour­nal of Pub­lic Health which pub­lished the sur­vey re­sults - said.

Lead re­searcher Dr Jodie Mof­fat urged peo­ple with symp­toms to “grab the bull by the horns” and seek help rather than suf­fer in si­lence.

“Don’t let your­self be put off. Make that ap­point­ment,” she said.

“Be force­ful. I know that’s eas­ier said than done. But it’s clear that a new sign or symp­tom, or some­thing that has stayed or got worse over time, needs to be checked out by a GP.”

Wor­ry­ing symp­toms that need a med­i­cal opin­ion in­clude bleed­ing, a per­sis­tent cough, a change in bowel habit and un­ex­plained lumps or swellings.

Dr Mof­fat said: “If you find it hard, ask a friend or a rel­a­tive to make an ap­point­ment for you. Or go on­line. Lots of GP surg­eries now take on­line book­ings.”

Prof El­iz­a­beth Stokoe, from Lough­bor­ough Univer­sity, re­cently car­ried out a study that lis­tened in to the con­ver­sa­tions of pa­tients and GP re­cep­tion­ists.

She found pa­tients of­ten had to drive the con­ver­sa­tion to get answers.

“The onus should be on the re­cep­tion­ist to pro­vide all the in­for­ma­tion, but of­ten it is the pa­tient who has to push to get it.

“If they don’t push then they get no ser­vice at all or they des­per­ately scrab­ble to get their voice heard.”Q

Dr Mau­reen Baker, chair­woman of the Royal Col­lege of GPs, said doc­tors un­der­stood that their pa­tients would pre­fer to speak di­rectly to them about their health, es­pe­cially when it is some­thing sen­si­tive or em­bar­rass­ing - but it is not al­ways pos­si­ble.

“With GPs mak­ing more pa­tient con­sul­ta­tions than ever be­fore - 60 mil­lion more a year com­pared to five years ago - GP re­cep­tion­ists en­sure the smooth run­ning of the prac­tice and do their best to help pa­tients see a par­tic­u­lar GP at a suit­able time for them,” she said.

“How­ever, it is im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that they are not health­care pro­fes­sion­als, and are not in a po­si­tion to make de­ci­sions about our pa­tients’ health.”

Ear­lier this year, NHS Eng­land an­nounced new fund­ing to­wards training re­cep­tion­ists, among other things.

The first £5m out of the to­tal £45m Gen­eral Prac­tice For­ward View fund will be made avail­able to prac­tices this au­tumn.

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