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© 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.

Original publication




Journal article


British Journal of General Practice

Publication Date





e478 - e486