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to not want to give symptoms to GP receptionist?

416 replies

vintageteacups · 01/06/2011 00:24

So I called the GP surgery this morning and, as like the last time I rang, the first thing the receptionist said when I asked to book a doc's appoinment for dd (9) was:

"what seems to be the problem? We have a nurse's clinic this afternoon"

I calmly said that I would like a doctor's appointment and didn't tell her the symptoms.

What on earth? We pay our taxes and it's our right to take dd to see the gp, yet this cold fish of a woman just went "right, Dr .... at 11:50 then", took the name and address and put down the phone.

As has happened before, I felt really guilty about taking DD and felt as though I was wasting their time (even though I hadn't said what was wrong wtih dd).

Surely they can sift out the ones who turn up every monday morning with a spot on their finger and another runny nose (however, it's surely their right to book an appointment if they want) compared to me who has taken dd and ds probably twice each in 2 years. I have been once in 2 years!

They have a comments sheet - was thinking about extending it into a letter.
The receptionists have a really bad reputation for being grumpy and unhelpful.

OP posts:

piprabbit · 01/06/2011 00:33

I'm going to sit on the fence a bit.

My experience with GP receptionists means that I'm now a bit phobic about calling the GP for anything. This is a problem when I have a chronic incurable disease and two children who are prone to the usual health issues. It has been known for me to take days to pluck up courage to call... so YANBU about mean and judgy receptionists.

However, her suggestion that you might use the nurse's clinic if appropriate could be quite a good idea (if your problem was something the nurse could help with). I generally prefer to see the nurse if I can as they are calm, helpful and are better time-keepers than the GPs.


AgentZigzag · 01/06/2011 00:33

It's possible she was asking if it was anything the nurse could see rather than what was specifically wrong with your DD?

I wouldn't feel under any obligation to tell the receptionist why I wanted to see the doctor, I might if I needed to see them that second without an appointment, but just to get an appointment I wouldn't.

Don't send a letter, they're probably hassled and overworked rather than just a general grumpy.

Hope your DD's feeling better soon.


CRS · 01/06/2011 00:40

We have good cop/bad cop receptionists at our practice. I generally go in to make appointments on good cop's days! Although when bad cop once asked me what was wrong with me, I said "It's serious and EMBARRASSING!" (it was asthma) and she's treated me with a kind of awed distaste ever since. Grin


vintageteacups · 01/06/2011 00:41

I have called before and actually asked to see the nurse so I'm okay at knowing when I need the gp but I just think it seems very rude to be asked straight away what seem to be the symptoms and then be fobbed off with nurses clinic, when I am the patient and they should be putting people at their ease.

Like you piprabbit, I have had so many awfully unhelpful receptionists that I put off ringing. In fact, often when I've said there's something wrong with me and DH says "go to the GP then", I say no, no, it's fine, I'll wait and see if it clears up. This is because I feel as though I'm wasting their time and that it's not serious enough.

Surely they should be publishing more locally that they have a nurses clinic for dealing with things such as bla, bla bla and then people can choose to book that if they want.

OP posts:

Mumwithadragontattoo · 01/06/2011 00:42

Apart from not closing the call cordially I really can't see what she did wrong. You don't have to list symptoms to receptionist but it can sometimes help them to make sure you see the right person for the right clinic if you do give some basic facts. Certainly no harm in asking and she didn't push the point when you said you wanted a doctors appt.


vintageteacups · 01/06/2011 00:47

Hmm - thing is though, by questioning what's wrong and whether you can go to the nurses clinic, instantly implies (imo) that you're not important.

The different clinic thing isn't relevant mumwith as they have leaflets and posters listing the different clicnics for asthma/hayfever/diet etc. I have never even seen a GP for DD's asthma - I knew there was a clinic so went straight to the asthma burse.

It just smacks of cutting corners in something that shouldn't be. The NHS can't even offer GP's apps;they have to try and fob us off with nurse practioners (most of whom nip off to double check it with the GP anyway!).

OP posts:

LordOfTheFlies · 01/06/2011 00:48

They need to 'triage' on the phone so they have to get some details.
Probably the ones with the spot on their finger reckon they have the right to see the GP too.

Our GP practise had a receptionist who like to 'diagnose'
Nursery asked me to pick up DS,as he had been grizzly and had discharge from his ear.
Managed to get an emergency.Receptionist stood in waiting room( in front of other patients) and said "Oh yes it looks like he's had an abscess that has burst"
Angry Thought

  1. you are not a doctor, don't make diagnoses however well meaning not discuss my son in the fecking waiting room.
Of course I said nothing Sigh.

vintageteacups · 01/06/2011 00:50

But that's what I mean; even if they on;y have a spot on their finger, it's their right to an appointment with a GP.

OP posts:

PatriciatheStripper · 01/06/2011 02:01

Sometimes they ask because their doctors may have particular interests in certain fields. For instance I went to get a mole checked out, and they booked me in with Dr X who takes a special interest in skin conditions. I didn't know that so I wouldn't have asked to see her. I don't mind if they ask on the phone, but it can be annoying when people broadcast your business all over the waiting room.

One time I was waiting to be seen for an ENT problem - I'd completely lost my voice and couldn't even whisper. While I was sat there, I thought I might as well make an appointment for a smear test which I'd had a reminder for. So I moseyed over to the reception desk and wrote down on a piece of paper "please could I make an appt for a cervical smear next week". Now I'm not remotely embarrassed by the mention of smear tests, but there probably are some people who are, and it was, shall we say, tactless of the receptionist to read the note out loudly so that all the occupants of the waiting room could clearly hear. She looked most taken aback when she realised that I couldn't speak, so am sure she did it deliberately because she thought I was being prissy.


Planetofthegrapes · 01/06/2011 02:01

Back in the days when you needed a prescription for the morning after pill, I rang to make an appointment and the receptionist wanted to know why I needed to see the gp soonish.

When I got to the surgery, the receptionist turned to the other ladies in the office behind her and said "look thats her...." and they looked and clocked me.

What a bitch!


acatcalledbob · 01/06/2011 02:07

Yes but a spot on a finger can be dealt with by a nurse and means that someone with a serious ailment that requires a doctor can get medical help sooner.

Hmm - thing is though, by questioning what's wrong and whether you can go to the nurses clinic, instantly implies (imo) that you're not important. Really? You need to feel important at the doctor's? It just implies that your ailment is simple enough to be dealt with by a nurse - it's not ego-bashing, don't take it so personally.

I'm an expat, seen doctors in half a dozen different countries and all receptionists ask what the symptoms are when you call for an appointment. If you don't want to tell them, then say you'd rather not, but you risk missing out on a doctor who had a particular interest / experience in your ailment.


JarethTheGoblinKing · 01/06/2011 02:08

It could easily be dealt with (by the receptionists) by simply asking 'Is this something that the nurse can deal with or do you need to see a GP?'

I always thought that there should be codes for things. If they send out a letter saying that you need to make an appt with the nurse for a smear, then you shouldn't need to spell out exactly WHY you need the appt.

What worries me is that I have no problem being assertive and demanding to see the GP if I think I really need to (which hasn't happened in years) but that there are plenty of people who might not be able to stand up for themselves and end up seeing a nurse for something that really needs GP attention/a prescription/referral etc


acatcalledbob · 01/06/2011 03:28

It could easily be dealt with (by the receptionists) by simply asking 'Is this something that the nurse can deal with or do you need to see a GP?' Yes, but then you get the people who think they should see a doctor when really a nurse will do. Most people (according to my GP sister) don't know what a nurse is capable of and GPs spend a huge amount of time dealing with patients who insist on seeing a doctor when a nurse will do. Receptionists know which symptoms should be seen by a nurse and which need a doctor.


Onceamai · 01/06/2011 07:13

I do think the OP has overreacted on one level in that i always start the conversation by saying what the symptoms are but on the other hand also feel that dr's receptionists can be the rudest, most discourteous bunch of jobs worth on the planet. OTH they are probably, most of the time, doing what the doctors tell them to do. I have an issue over the first name business - when they call my doctors Fred, Jane, and Ann they can use my first name too - until then they can stop using my first name because I am not the doctor's subordinate. It's an equality issue.

When I was a little girl, we turned up at the doctors took a ticket and waited - no appointments, no nurse, one lady on the desk who did the doctor's filing and took in notes if required, no endless calls making appointments. If you wanted to be seen quickly, you got there early, and the doctor always knew who you were. Everyone who queued was seen and I'm sure it was cheaper and more efficient.


Finallygotaroundtoit · 01/06/2011 07:25

How? Unless they ask what's wrong?

Fine if you'd rather not say.
I'm sure in the hundreds of calls they deal with that day your particular symptoms are soon forgotten

icooksocks · 01/06/2011 07:33

I often ask to see the nurse at our local practice-she's very quick and good for prescribing antibiotics for the 900th ear infection that one of my children has got, and it means we aren't taking up the GP's time for something simple and somewhat obvious (my kids do ear infections quite spectacularly)
I'm also on the whole okay about telling the receptionist what the problem is-however if it was embarrassing then I would just say I'd rather not say anything.


Loonytoonie · 01/06/2011 07:41

Have to sit on the fence too - visiting GP surgeries was part of my old job for 8 years and, as front line staff, Receptionists cop a load of grief on almost a daily basis I should say. Makes sense that practices may chose to employ 'tough' personnel simply to deal with some of the verbal grief they get.

Also, since GP surgeries are stretched to almost breaking point (due to unnecessary appointments being made by those who consider it their 'right' to have a GP look at them), staff are asked to try and direct appropriate patients to the practice nurse. Makes total sense, non?

That said, unscrupulous staff that are rude and indiscreet should be reported to their practice manager.

The NHS can't even offer GP's apps;they have to try and fob us off with nurse practioners (most of whom nip off to double check it with the GP anyway!). Biscuit Do you know how hard these specialists work and how long they have to train for? Must be great for them knowing that they are taken so seriously OP. For this alone, YABU.


TeaOneSugar · 01/06/2011 07:45

Unfortuanately many GP practices simply can't cope with the demands patients place on their services, and have to put demand management measures in place, one of which is call screening by receptionsists. If your practice is going beyond screening (which doesn't seem to be the case) and the receptionists are attempting to triage them I'd suggest asking to speak to the manager.

You don't have to answer the receptionists question if you really don't want to but you have some responsibility for using NHS services appropriately and that includes helping your practice to ensure you are seen by the right professional for your treatment. A GP is an increasingly scarce and expensive resource.


plebshire · 01/06/2011 07:47

My old surgery had a receptionist that would refuse to give you an appointment unless she deemed your symptoms 'serious enough'. What makes me Angry is that some people would listen to her and be unable to get the treatment they needed and are entitled to. I complained time and again but she was still there when I left.


ginmakesitallok · 01/06/2011 07:48

YABU - you don't have a RIGHT to see a GP - you have a right to be treated by the most appropriate health professional who could be a nurse, and AHP or a GP. I don't understand why people don't want to tell the receptionist what's wrong with them - who do you think types up your notes? The receptionist is part of the GP team, they are bound by the same confidentiality rules as everyone else.

YABU and precious


itisnearlysummer · 01/06/2011 08:41

I suppose it depends on what the symptoms are. If it's something the patient is a little embarrassed about discussing with the doctor then I can understand them not wanting to tell the receptionist.

At my last GP appt I had to complete a likert scale on how I was feeling mental health wise. The GP asked me to complete it in the waiting area and then hand it into the receptionist when I made my next appt.

I did so and the receptionist opened the questionnaire and read every response before she made the appointment. Not really sure that was necessary. Hmm


LynetteScavo · 01/06/2011 08:49

I get asked if it's a new problem. If it is I'm sent to the nurse. If it isn't I get to see a GP.

Don't get me started on this. I now know to "play" the system and all my problems are "old" Angry


PGTip · 01/06/2011 08:53

YAB a little U, my mom is a Drs receptionist (and a very good one). They are told to ask what the problem/symptoms are. She certainly doesn't ask to be nosey! They have a very hard job, all you have to say is that you'd rather discuss it with the dr and the subject is dropped.


pjmama · 01/06/2011 08:56

If the receptionist asks for symptoms, it's not difficult to say "it's personal".

I don't see a problem with the receptionist doing a basic triage to try and ensure that their limited resources are being used appropriately i.e. the "spot on finger" cases get dealt with by a nurse instead of taking a doctors appointment unnecessarily.

I think YABU and taking it way too personally. She didn't push it when you insisted on a doctor's appointment and I'm sure she forgot all about it and got on with her job as soon as she put the phone down. You got the appointment you wanted, so what's the problem?


Glitterknickaz · 01/06/2011 08:58

I used to get this all the time. I never minded letting them know in general terms - ie respiratory issue, intimate female problem but I certainly didn't go into detail. They know me now though and they don't tend to question my need for an apointment, they tend to know I don't get one unless I absolutely need it.

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