Morale among GP receptionists has taken a hit due to verbal abuse – including swearing – from patients booking appointments.
Catherine Robertson of Taymount Surgery is urging the public to show respect to receptionists as GPs predict practice teams to be “busier than ever”.
She says the significant amount of verbal abuse that receptionists face has made staff feel underappreciated.
Deteriorating levels of abuse
Catherine says the abuse has become worse over the last three months.
It has also had hugely negative impact on morale among reception staff.
Catherine said: “When lockdown was relaxed a little bit, I think people thought the NHS had relaxed as well. But that wasn’t the case at all – we still had strict instructions.
“Practice team staff sadly faced a lot of verbal abuse and were sworn at on numerous occasions. I’ve been told so many times that I was just a receptionist.
“It did make practice team staff feel under-appreciated and it’s become worse over the last three months.
“It definitely has had an impact on the wellbeing and the morale of staff. Quite often you put the phone down and think, ‘what am I here for?'”
She added: “Everyone wants to be seen and it’s not always appropriate.
“This is the new normal for now and I think patients need to understand that some appointments must go through a phone appointment or video first.
“We’re all doing the Covid-19 vaccines too so we’re busier than ever before.”
Letters to patients
But Catherine says managers, supervisors and doctors have provided “great support” to receptionists amid the abuse.
Meanwhile, letters are being sent to patients who are being abusive to warn them of abusive behaviour.
Catherine has also thanked patients who have cooperated with staff.
“We really do appreciate the patients who support us,” she said.
The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) Scotland has praised frontline staff for their efforts during the pandemic.
The organisation is appealing to members of the public to “show their support and kindness” to primary care professionals.
RCGP Scotland’s Joint Chair Dr Chris Williams said: “One of the concerns expressed by many of our primary care professionals was that patients had often perceived they were acting as a barrier between them and their GP, which is definitely not the case.
“All of our practice team staff are highly trained and are there to ensure they triage patients to the correct person or to signpost them to the most appropriate service.
“In order for us to continue delivering the highest possible standard of care to our patients, we would ask patients to be aware of the additional responsibilities of our practice managers and staff and to please show them kindness and gratitude during these hard-pressed times.”
He added: “Although there has been a lot of gratitude shown to GPs for their commitment throughout the pandemic, we also wanted to emphasise the hard work that our practice teams have also been carrying out all the way through this tough year.”