Monday, 5 March 2012

Saints and sinners

A recent conversation with our staff while officer of the day revealed how differently our beloved patients view and value their NHS. Our reception staff daily deal with probably 99% of our patients who use the NHS responsibly and are courteous human beings.

If anyone thinks being a GPs’ receptionist is a simple job they ought to listen to any doctor who works at ND Central in training who will spend a session in reception and they always comment about how difficult being a receptionist is. Our doctors in training are often used as gofers as they do not know what to do for simple things like how do I make an appointment for a blood test?

Yet as doctors in training they will, as do we as GPs, delegate tasks to receptionists to arrange on our behalf along with loads of other tasks seemly simple in isolation but taken as a whole a very complex series of sometimes isolated but sometimes interrelated tasks. Healthcare is not simple unless you are a politician who has never worked in healthcare. Indeed this is the only qualification one needs to be a secretary of health.

Our doctors in training learn to appreciate how many different things receptionists have to deal with – which appointment to make and with whom, which form needs to be filled in and what any costs may be, know which staff member is best placed to deal with an individual and how to utilize resources effectively for example does a request for blood tests and an ECG mean one or two separate appointments?

The medical side of reception work is relatively easy to learn but the more difficult part to learn is how to deal with the people who make up our beloved patients.

Receptionists are relatively cheap and if looked after get better and acquire local knowledge and can reduce workload for both medical professionals and patients alike unlike your average call centre worker, sorry NHS (re)Direct and NHS 911 healthcare “professionals” whose default is a pathetic “see your GP” we are not doctors but are pumped up to be so. Thank goodness our receptionists still make our appointments for us with knowledge of our patients.

So we return to the saints and sinners. The saint was a patient that a few weeks ago came into surgery with a condition. This condition had struck all of a sudden, was incredibly painful and affected them so severely that walking was impossible. The patient was brought to the surgery as it was the nearest point of help.

There were several other professionals nearby who no doubt had fully qualified first aiders, to tick a Health and Safety box but for some reason (other than costs) the patient dropped on us here at ND Central. Makes a mockery of Health and Safety legislation when if you are in an accountants’ office you have to walk down the road for help?

Our reception staff administered first aid, for in contrast to the usual daily and by the minute “emergencies” they see and deal with for this was unusual for the patient looked, and was, indeed very seriously ill.

The on call doctor was informed of the situation, gave advice and then summoned as the patient’s condition worsened very rapidly from when first informed and so they dropped everything to attend to this complete stranger for the best part of an hour, relieving pain and stabilizing their condition until they were transferred for further care leaving ND Central better than they were when first seen.

The on call doctor then proceeded to treat the remainder of their patients most of whom were prepared to wait having been told by the reception staff that the doctor had been delayed. Most of the patients had actually seen what was going on for initially all of this had occurred in the vast antechamber of a palacial GP surgery in reception until the patient stabilized and was well enough to be transferred to some where more private. Most of them brushed off the wait when we apologized for having kept them.

A few days later the same members of staff were on duty and witnessed what happened when a patient turned up for an appointment. The patient was told they did not have an appointment and that their appointment was booked for 4 weeks earlier. The receptionist concerned double checked, for we know that human error does occur but never patient error, and there was no appointment for that patient on the day that they decided to grace us with their worthy prescence.

The patient, a lot younger and fitter than our previous patient, said they had booked an appointment with Dr X for this f**king date and this f**king time are you calling me a f**king liar you twat you are only a receptionist?

This was interesting for Dr X had retired several weeks earlier.

The first patient whose condition was so severe returned to surgery in person a few weeks later. They presented some of our staff with very personalized gifts to those who had treated them and had even though acutely ill remembered individuals’ names as well as those others involved with their care.

The response of the second patient to the receptionist’s offer of an alternative appointment with another doctor after the staff member’s calm explanation as to why the patient could not see Dr X and the fact that they had got the wrong day was:

“You are all a load of f**king shit”.

Praise be to the Party for ensuring that all in the NHS are equal when it comes to abuse but many on the frontline are more equal. What Andrew L gets once in a lifetime and can walk away from with the benefit of ministerial piviledge he and other politicians ensure that as a result of their continuing intereference in healthcare our receptionists get on a daily basis.

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