Hungerford Surgery Patient Participation Group

We all know the NHS is under pressure, as the demand for primary care services far outstrips supply. That is true for Hungerford Surgery as for many GP surgeries.

Our first contact with the surgery is the person at the front desk or on the phone.

We thought you would like to understand a little more about those members of staff and what they actually do from day-to-day as they try to help signpost us to the best healthcare professional for our needs.

So here’s an interview conducted by the PPG on 2nd August this year with Loren and Faith at the surgery:

What do you love about your job?

We're a part of the community, and we do a difficult job because we're the bridge between the patients, doctors and nurses, but it's really rewarding seeing patients get the care they need. Signposting is a key skill in trying to get the right appointment for the patient at the right time and with the right healthcare professional. Patients don’t always need to see a doctor and obtaining a key piece of information from the patient can make all the difference as to how best we can help them.

Are you local to the area?

All the reception and admin staff live in the town or surrounding villages and it helps when we know our patients and are able to build relationships to understand their needs.

Is there a downside to being in Hungerford?

Not really. When we are out shopping lots of people speak and are really friendly. We see so many people and it often takes us a while to realise where they know us from but apart from the odd health related question, when we are off duty, it is a real positive and privilege living and working within the community of Hungerford.

What were your first thoughts about your career?

We always wanted to be in the caring profession and feel that we are at the heart of Hungerford working in the surgery, but on the organisational not the clinical side ... “I don’t think I could ever stick a needle in someone's arm!” The practice has been really supportive with lots of training and opportunities and Faith is our apprentice who is combining her studies with working at the surgery.

What advice would you give someone coming to do your job?

First and foremost be organised! You need to be ready with a diary, making schedules and sorting out priorities. Broad shoulders are a must too because one minute you are welcoming and registering a new baby and the next having to deal with a bereaved relative or friend who has lost someone dear to them. Most important is that we try to be empathetic and calm at all times, even if someone is in considerable pain or feeling stressed. When someone is poorly they can feel frustrated, despite us trying our best to help. But we keep on trying and get there in the end.

What do your friends say about your job?

Most people don’t realise what a receptionist does and even when they first apply for the job people often think it's just keeping the office tidy and booking appointments but this makes up only a small fraction of our day. We spend a huge amount of time dealing with a vast range of enquiries such as organising hospital transport, sorting out prescriptions, updating clinical notes, giving out blood test results as authorised by the doctors and endless chasing so that patients get the services they need. Behind that is a large amount of administration work and ordering of supplies to help keep the surgery ticking over. No one day is ever the same and we enjoy our jobs despite some days being very demanding and stressful.

What do you wish patients knew about your job?

How intense it is … taking call after call. You have to be something different to each patient. We might speak to one patient, who is lonely and who might not have talked to anyone in days and really need a chat; the next patient might be suffering from a terminal illness; or someone with a prescription problem. There is never a dull moment! It does make me very specific when I call my own GP because you’re aware of the huge pressure they’re under: they might have a full morning clinic seeing patients, meetings with other healthcare professionals, urgent visits and calls, and then you knock at their door with a query or a last minute addition to a clinic, they do an amazing job. Also we've got thousands of names on our patient list, so please give the receptionist your name and date of birth! It's amazing how many people ring off without giving their name … there are lots of John Smiths so we need to know which one is which

I couldn't get through the weekend without:

A rest! Knowing that when we leave for the day that the 111 service takes over, and we can take a break and have the odd glass of wine … doctor’s orders of course!.


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