Slaying the dragon myth: A study of receptionists in UK general practice

General practice receptionists are not simply powerful and formidable 'gatekeepers' to GPs as they are occasionally portrayed in the mainstream media, according to research from The University Manchester.

The study, published in this month's British Journal of General Practice, attests that receptionists fulfil an essential role in UK primary care through shaping access to . However, this is often a difficult task involving prioritising patients with minimal time, information and training. The popularisation of them in the media masks the multitude of other tasks that they have to perform and trivialises the decisions they have to make.

The ethnographic study carried out by researchers at The University of Manchester and the University of Liverpool analysed over 200 hours of interactions between 45 GP receptionists and patients as well as interviews with the receptionists. The seven surgeries studied were in urban areas of .

It concluded that GP receptionists generally feel a responsibility to protect the most vulnerable patients. However, this was at times made difficult by a shortage of appointments, certain patients trying to 'play the system', and specific protocols being imposed in some GP practices.

Jonathan Hammond, lead author on the paper from The University of Manchester's Institute of , said: "It might be the case that what are portrayed as individual failings on the part of receptionists are actually due to systemic problems within GP practices.

"Any further training to address negative aspects of receptionist-patient relationships should reflect on the organisation and within practices if whole-practice functioning and overall patient care are to be improved."

More information: Hammond, J. et al. Slaying the dragon myth: an ethnographic study of receptionists in UK general practice. British Journal of General Practice.

Related Stories

Research shows GP receptionists are unsung heroes

date Nov 04, 2011

GP receptionists play a major and important role in ensuring that patients get the correct treatments when they need them, according to a study* published today (3 November) in the British Medical Journal.

Warning over polyclinics and super-surgeries

date Sep 22, 2008

Research carried out at the University of Leicester by Carolyn Tarrant and Tim Stokes, of the Department of Health Sciences, and Andrew Colman, of the School of Psychology, suggests that polyclinics and super-surgeries are ...

New tool to support safer GP prescribing

date Feb 18, 2013

A new computer tool to help reduce the risk of commonly made drug prescribing errors has been launched by a primary care research team and the PRIMIS business unit at The University of Nottingham.

Recommended for you

UK doctors unlikely to be able to repay student loans

date 12 hours ago

UK doctors are unlikely to be able to repay their student loans over the course of their working lives, amassing debts of more than £80,000 by the time they graduate, in some cases, finds research published in the online ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.