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Receptionists' role in new approaches to consultations in primary care: A focused ethnographic study

Brant, Heather Dawn; Atherton, Helen; Bikker, Annemieke; Porqueddu, Tania; Salisbury, Chris; McKinstry, Brian; Campbell, John; Gibson, Andy; Ziebland, Sue


Heather Dawn Brant

Helen Atherton

Annemieke Bikker

Tania Porqueddu

Chris Salisbury

Brian McKinstry

John Campbell

Andy Gibson
Associate Professor in Patient and Public Involve

Sue Ziebland


© British Journal of General Practice. Background The receptionist is pivotal to the smooth running of general practice in the UK, communicating with patients and booking appointments. Aim The authors aimed to explore the role of the receptionist in the implementation of new approaches to consultations in primary care. Design and setting The authors conducted a team-based focused ethnography. Three researchers observed eight general practices across England and Scotland between June 2015 and May 2016. Method Interviews were conducted with 39 patients and 45 staff in the practices, all of which had adopted one or more methods (telephone, email, e-consultation, or internet video) for providing an alternative to face-to-face consultation. Results Receptionists have a key role in facilitating patient awareness regarding new approaches to consultations in primary care, while at the same time ensuring that patients receive a consultation appropriate to their needs. In this study, receptionists' involvement in implementation and planning for the introduction of alternative approaches to faceto-face consultations was minimal, despite the expectation that they would be involved in delivery. Conclusion A shared understanding within practices of the potential difficulties and extra work that might ensue for reception staff was lacking. This might contribute to the low uptake by patients of potentially important innovations in service delivery. Involvement of the wider practice team in planning and piloting changes, supporting team members through service reconfiguration, and providing an opportunity to discuss and contribute to modifications of any new system would ensure that reception staff are suitably prepared to support the introduction of a new approach to consultations.


Brant, H. D., Atherton, H., Bikker, A., Porqueddu, T., Salisbury, C., McKinstry, B., …Ziebland, S. (2018). Receptionists' role in new approaches to consultations in primary care: A focused ethnographic study. British Journal of General Practice, 68(672), e478-e486.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 20, 2018
Online Publication Date Jun 4, 2018
Publication Date Jul 1, 2018
Deposit Date Jun 11, 2018
Journal British Journal of General Practice
Print ISSN 0960-1643
Electronic ISSN 1478-5242
Publisher Royal College of General Practitioners
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 68
Issue 672
Pages e478-e486
Keywords communication, family practice, focused ethnography, general practice, medical receptionists, primary care, qualitative
research, remote consultation
Public URL
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