Medical Receptionist

The Job and What's Involved

Doctors reception areaA medical receptionist is the first point of contact that patients and visitors have when they go to a GP practice, health centre or hospital. Medical receptionists are responsible for ensuring that people are in the right place at the right time, and for promoting a positive image of where they work.

A medical receptionist's responsibilities may include:

  • Answering the switchboard or telephone.
  • Arranging patients' appointments.
  • Taking messages for medical staff.
  • Booking in patients and confirming that their contact details are correct.
  • Calling patients from the waiting room when it is their turn to be seen.
  • Directing patients to the consultation room for their appointment.
  • Issuing repeat prescriptions.
  • Locating files and organising them for the day's appointments.
  • Checking medical records against patient lists.
  • Organising samples for collection, chasing up test results and filing them once received.
  • Ensuring that medical files are logged in and out of the department.
  • Looking for missing files and chasing up documentation.
  • Dealing with telephone enquiries, including confirming appointments and giving directions.
  • Updating computerised records.
  • Arranging patient transport.
  • Keeping the reception area and waiting room tidy.

Medical receptionists may also be responsible for first aid, and health and safety.

They work as part of a team, often including other medical receptionists, medical secretaries, doctors and nurses. They usually report to a practice manager.

Medical receptionists working for a private medical practice may also be involved with issuing invoices, dealing with medical insurance companies and taking payment for treatments.

Medical receptionists typically work between 37 and 40 hours a week, from 8.30am to 6pm, Monday to Friday. Some receptionists may be required to work a shift pattern to provide an extended service, covering evenings and weekends. There may be part-time and job share opportunities.

The role is office based. It may involve long periods of sitting and working at a desk. Smart casual or business dress is usually expected.

Starting salaries may be around £13,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are approximately two million people employed in the UK health sector. Opportunities are available across the UK. The largest employer is the NHS, where medical receptionists are employed in:

- GP practices
- Out-of-hours centres
- Health centres
- Hospitals

Opportunities are also available within the independent sector, which includes private hospitals and voluntary organisations.

Vacancies are reasonably frequent and are advertised in local newspapers and Jobcentre Plus offices, and on the NHS jobs website www.jobs.nhs.uk.

Education and Training

There are no formal entry requirements to become a medical receptionist, although employers may ask for five GCSE's (A*-C), including English and maths.

The Diplomas in society, health and development or business, administration and finance may be relevant for this area of work.

There are a number of nationally accredited Level 2 qualifications that may be suitable for people aiming to become medical receptionists, including:

  • The Association of Medical Secretaries, Practice Managers, Administrators and Receptionists (AMSPAR) Intermediate Diploma in Medical Reception.
  • AMSPAR Level 2 Certificate in Medical Terminology for Non-clinical Professionals.
  • City & Guilds Level 2 Intermediate Diploma for medical reception.
  • EDEXCEL Level 2 NVQ in support services in health care.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Training is on the job. Employees may also be encouraged to attend training programmes to assist in their development. This is likely to include training on a healthcare computer system.

Some employers offer the BTEC National Awards in business (Levels 1 to 3).

In addition to the courses listed above, AMSPAR offers a non-accredited short course Certificate in Health Service Administration for newly appointed staff, covering:

  • Ethics, confidentiality and the role of the receptionist.
  • Communication skills, patient care and discrimination awareness.
  • Repeat prescriptions, managing appointment systems and tracking patient notes.
  • Health and safety in a clinical environment.
  • Quality issues in patient care, including medical audit.
  • Complaint procedures and dealing with aggressive behaviour.

Those wishing to progress to a career as a medical secretary may also choose to study for the British Society of Medical Secretaries (BSMS) Certificate in Medical Secretarial Studies or the City & Guilds Level 3 Advanced Diploma for medical secretaries.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A medical receptionist should:

  • Have strong interpersonal and communication skills, both in person and on the telephone.
  • Be friendly and confident.
  • Have good organisational skills and be able to prioritise workload.
  • Be able to cope in a busy environment.
  • Be presentable.
  • Be flexible and adaptable.
  • Be able to use his or her initiative.
  • Be discreet and tactful.
  • Be patient and sympathetic.
  • Be courteous but firm.
  • Be able to work well alone and in a team.
  • Be computer literate.

Your Long Term Prospects

Various career opportunities are open to medical receptionists. With experience and training, they may able to move into supervisory and management roles.

They could also move to a different NHS trust, surgery or practice, or into the independent sector.

It may also be possible to move into a related clerical or administrative role in a non-medical field.

Get Further Information

Association of Medical Secretaries, Practice Managers,
Administrators and Receptionists (AMSPAR),
Tavistock House North, Tavistock Square, London WC1H 9LN
Tel: 020 7387 6005
Website: www.amspar.com

British Society of Medical Secretaries (BSMS),
132 Mayfield Rd, Edinburgh EH9 3AH
Tel: 0131 466 0682
Website: www.bsms.org

Council for Administration (CfA),
6 Graphite Square, Vauxhall Walk, London SE11 5EE
Tel: 020 7091 9620
Websites: www.cfa.uk.com and www.breakinto.biz

NHS Careers, PO Box 2311, Bristol BS2 2ZX
Tel:0845 606 0655
Websites: www.nhscareers.nhs.uk,
www.stepintothenhs.nhs.uk and www.jobs.nhs.uk

Skills for Health, 2nd Floor,
Goldsmiths House, Broad Plain,
Bristol BS2 0JP
Tel: 0117 922 1155
Website: www.skillsforhealth.org.uk

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