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Why do doctor's receptionists feel qualified to ask you what the medical problem is when you want a doctor's appointment?

(41 Posts)
Caligula Wed 30-Mar-05 09:44:17

And should they really be doing this?

Are they under any duty of confidentiality?

TBH, I don't want to discuss my medical status with anyone except a doctor (even if it's just a bad cold!) and I wonder if doctor's receptionists are actually trained to assess whether you need an appointment or not? And if they aren't, why the bloody hell do they ask?

Or am I just being pernickity and bad tempered because I feel ill?!

Gumdrop Wed 30-Mar-05 09:52:49

My practice booklet actually says that their receptionists are trained to assess whether an appointment is required or not.

Having said that I always say (very politely)"I would prefer to discuss my medical problem with the doctor". (And use broken record method, i.e. keep repeating it whatever they say in response) They tut, and sigh, but generally back down.

But the general "Oh why are you here wasting Doctor's valuable time" attitude really gets on my nerves! I'm here, because the doctor gets paid to have me on their list, and in return I expect to be able to talk to a qualified doctor in respect of my medical issues. Rant over.

ks Wed 30-Mar-05 09:53:06

Message withdrawn

Freckle Wed 30-Mar-05 09:53:37

I think they are under a duty of confidentiality - as are all staff employed in a gp's surgery. However, I don't think they are entitled to ask what is wrong. It's nothing to do with them. I know that there has in the past been a tradition of receptionists asking rather personal questions. I can remember as a child feeling mortified because the receptionist was someone who lived in my village and whose son went to my school. I had visions of his knowing all my most intimate details.

I don't recall having been asked recently for such details but, if I were, I would simply reply that that is something I wish to discuss with my doctor. I can understand needing to know for things like vaccinations, etc. as they may need to order in the vaccine, but for normal "problems", it's really none of their business.

pootlepod Wed 30-Mar-05 09:53:42

I tend to say what I want it for e.g. blood tests as they have to be done in the morning where I am. But I am always very general. I think it's so they can give you an apoointment of the right length. You can always lie...

Laylasmum Wed 30-Mar-05 09:56:20

they aren't trained in anyway to assess your need for an appointment. if your surgery has a nurse practitioner ( a nurse with extended qualifications to diagnose and prescribe) then they may offer you an appointment with her but she can only see certain conditions which is why they may ask you for some basic details. at the end of the day if you don't want to say and you want to see a doctor then say so and they will have to give you an appointment in accordance with their booking system. The Gps and other staff at the surgery want the receptionists to book patients in with the most appropriate member of staff at he end of the day.

northerner Wed 30-Mar-05 09:57:25

Don't know what sort of training they undergo - amybe a few Mumsnetters are DR's receptionists?

But mine also ask 'is it an emergancy?' and what's the problem?' when I call for an appointment. Guess they have a difficult job though, and have to find out some info to priorotise the appoitments.

Caligula Wed 30-Mar-05 09:58:27

OK so I am being crotchety and bad tempered!

But it's one of those questions that's been bugging me for years - how qualified people are who ask questions. And even in London (where I used to live) there's quite a small town feel about doctor's receptionists, they usually live locally, so I always felt a bit chary about divulging details of medical conditions etc. Also when you're in the surgery, there doesn't appear to be any discretion about the questions they ask - when you've got a queue of people behind you and they're asking when your last period was or something (reasonable enough question if you're having a cervical smear), I've always found it so inappropriate, and wondered whether they were trained to do this.

skerriesmum Wed 30-Mar-05 10:06:31

I think they're in their rights, as I'm sure the doctors are busy and they need to prioritise appointments and also figure out how much time is required for each. I don't have a big problem with it myself.

logic Wed 30-Mar-05 10:16:05

I get annoyed by this too - non-medically trained strangers asking personal questions about your health. If it meant that once I got to see the doctor he knew why I was there and had done some research then I could see a point but they never have a clue why I'm there...

Clarinet60 Wed 30-Mar-05 22:35:10

Tell them you've got a discharge and start describing it. That usually shuts them up.

paolosgirl Wed 30-Mar-05 22:40:48

Our snippy receptionists always ask "is it an emergency or routine" - ffs, if it was an emergency I'd go to A and E, so I usually end up saying, "well, the problem is x y and z, you decide", because if you choose an emergency appointment you then get a lecture about how sought after these appointments are, and then you feel very guilty if it's not life and death. Does a throat infection count as an emergency or a routine appointment? Someone enligthen me!

wobblyknicks Wed 30-Mar-05 22:44:48

paolosgirl - my receptionist told me at one time that a routine appt means anything that can and should wait if needs be, like a repeat perscription appt, flu jab, chatting because you think your arthritus may be getting slightly worse, whereas an emergency one is something that's not necessarily emergency as in A&E style but shouldn't really wait - ie, your baby keeps chucking up, you woke up with a fever and think you may need antibiotics, you've found a lump etc etc.

charleepeters Wed 30-Mar-05 22:47:31

i know what you mean its terrible especially if its a 'personal' problem

BubblesDeVere Wed 30-Mar-05 23:01:30

I hate it when they ask and refuse point blank, mainly because of a few things.


1. I can't see them being qualified to make that decision.
2. They always spell out your surname and then repeat your address to you.
3. The surgery isn't very large so EVERYONE waiting can hear the conversations.
4. They repeat the problem to you or ask more questions.

I just say similar to what Freckle says and don't say anything else.

WideWebWitch Wed 30-Mar-05 23:06:04

Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.

WideWebWitch Wed 30-Mar-05 23:07:44

So actually, I don't think you're crotchety and bad tempered. Well, if you are, I am too. But that's entirely possible.

joash Wed 30-Mar-05 23:09:39

We took GS to the surgery twice over a two week period, were ushered into see the nurse, who totally ignored whatever we said and 'poo-pooed' any notion that he was really ill. Both times we had to take him back and insist on seeing the doctor - the second time he ended up in hospital!!!

Heathcliffscathy Wed 30-Mar-05 23:24:33

argh. my dr's receptionist. argh. can't post as she makes me so

manutd Thu 31-Mar-05 00:02:49

My health centre receptionists are lovely and ask what it is for so they can get me or my kids a same day appointment if it sounds serious or if I am very worried

latenightonmn Thu 31-Mar-05 00:38:03

Would anyone like the definition of paranoia?

When your dr's receptionist was married to your father before your mother. She and your mother are now friends and drink together. Her son is someone you see regularly but dont know too well. Her best friend is also a receptionist at the same drs whilst working part time with your mother. You did at 17 years old, snog the best friend's son. His sister who was in the year above you at school, works in the pharmacy next door to the drs.

Is it any wonder i changed my dr years ago and hid for this thread?

FairyMum Thu 31-Mar-05 07:31:53

I don't think they should be asking (mine never does) and they are not qualified to judge weather urgent or not. Wouldn't that mean they would give all appointments to men who always think they are dying when sick and never to people who tend to be a bit more modest about their symptoms?

SoupDragon Thu 31-Mar-05 08:27:30

Is it not simply so they can say "did you know the practise nurse can help you with that?" rather than taking up the GP's appointments with unnecessary stuff?

FWIW, my GP receptionists never ask. They ask if it's an emergency (which I take to mean "do you want to be squeezed in today or can it wait a day or so?") but that's it. I'm certainny not changing my GP ever because I'd be too scared of getting some of thereceptionists I've heard bouat here. I've never had a problem and now feel lucky.

Bozza Thu 31-Mar-05 08:48:09

Ours aren't too bad they do ask either if its an emergency or when you would like to see the doctor. If its something like suspected ear infection in DS or d&v in DD I say "as soon as possible". Also always ask for an appt "for my baby" rather than daughter if its for for DD because reckon babies do (and should) get priority. But if its something like DS going deaf but not in pain(we're off tomorrow for this one) or his molluscum I try to arrange a day a few days ahead when I am not working in order to save myself half a days holiday.

piffle Thu 31-Mar-05 09:10:43

if you don't tell ours at least briefly, they book you in with the nurse instead, then she refers you to doctor - it takes FOREVER
I have been known to lie as the doctors never know what you've said when you get in there do they?

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