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GP receptionists play a key role

4th November 2011

Research published in the British Medical Journal has said doctors' receptionists play an important part in making sure patients receive repeat prescriptions.

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A study by researchers at Queen Mary, University of London found that receptionists ensured computer-managed repeat prescription systems ran efficiently.

The study looked at four GP surgeries in London and observed 395 hours of work done by receptionists and other admin staff.

Many people assume that the issuing of repeat prescription is a quick, computer-controlled process.

However, the researchers found that repeat prescribing is actually a complicated process involving cooperation between receptionists and clinical staff.

The study's lead author Deborah Swinglehurst, who is a research fellow at the Centre for Primary Care and Public Health, Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry at Queen Mary, University of London, said there was a space between "formal procedures" and the day-to-day working of a GP surgery. 

She added: "This includes important 'hidden' creative work by front line reception staff."

The researchers discovered that over 50% of requested repeat prescriptions involved items that were not tagged as repeats on a patient's electronic record or were listed under another name, date or dose.

The study said that because of these factors issuing repeat prescriptions "required explicit and tacit knowledge".

"For example, many were adept at using a formulary to match brand names with generic equivalents; they often telephoned patients to clarify ambiguous requests, and many kept (individual or shared) notebooks containing knowledge they had gleaned on the job." 

 

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