Practices defend extended role for their receptionists

Practices in Hull have defended a decision to train receptionists about medicines and NHS services to help them offer a broader range of advice to patients.

Receptionists have been trained on a 'background to medicines' (Photograph: SPL)
Receptionists have been trained on a 'background to medicines' (Photograph: SPL)

Local newspapers and East Yorkshire LMC have expressed concern that receptionists are being encouraged to dispense 'clinical advice' or triage patients away from surgeries.

The medicines management course, which receptionists at 30 practices in Hull have attended, involves a 'background to medicines and prescribing', and information on 'appliances, devices and food supplements'.

But NHS Hull insists the 57 receptionists that have completed the scheme are not dispensing medical advice.

Denise Wilkinson, practice manager at The Quay medical Centre, in Hull, works with receptionists that have completed the course. She said they do not give out clinical advice.

'It's about helping receptionists understand what patients are talking about,' she said.

Receptionists come back able to answer basic questions on medical devices and how to synchronise patients' medicines so they can be dispensed at the same time, said Ms Wilkinson.

'They can signpost patients to the pharmacy if they have a cough or cold, but wouldn't stop them getting an appointment.'

Chief executive of Hull and East Yorkshire LMC Dr Russell Walshaw said that had the LMC been consulted, it would have opposed the scheme.

'We would have concerns about non-medical staff giving any advice about medicine. There is potential for litigation and insurance issues,' he said.

A spokeswoman for NHS Hull said: 'This initiative is in no way intended to replace advice from a qualified medical professional or prevent patients making GP appointments.'

GPC negotiator Dr Chaand Nagpaul said GPs should make sure they are comfortable with the courses their staff attend.

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