WHEN we’re ill, our GP surgeries are the first place we turn for help. But who we’re seen by is changing, with some patient care moving away from under pressure doctors. In our series, Changing Care: The new GP team, we’re looking at what patients in North Cumbria can expect.

Today the practices’ unsung heroines and heroes – the receptionists and admin team.

Hayley and Rio are well practised in putting themselves in the shoes of others. It’s a necessary skill when you’re part of a busy receptionists’ team tasked with being the first face or voice that ill or worried patients are met with when seeking treatment.

Hayley Pearson is the senior receptionist for the James Street Group Practice in Workington, and a retail background has left her with few illusions of how demanding the public can be.

She said: “You’ve got to try and think of it from other people’s point of view. I know there’s no need for being rude, but sometimes they’re frustrated by the time they get through on the phone and frustrated that they’re not well and you’ve just got to try keep that in mind.

News and Star: Hayley Pearson, senior receptionist. Hayley Pearson, senior receptionist. (Image: Supplied)

“When you ask them why they want an appointment that can just tip them over.

“But you’re doing it for their own good, and you need that information. There can be some quite difficult conversations. It comes down to experience, you just learn to handle it.”

Hayley, receptionist Rio Collins and the 20-plus members of the reception team have a vital role in getting people to the right appointment.

Rio said: “We ask what sort of symptoms they’re having because we have lots of different appointments and experts and people often don’t know what they need.

“People will often say it’s private when you ask what’s wrong and many times that can be because it’s a mental health issue. We have a mental health practitioner who is the better person to see because that’s where her expertise lies.”

Hayley adds: “People want to see their GP when they’ve got something like back pain. But the doctor is likely going to refer them to the MSK (musculoskeletal) clinic and that could be up to a 15-week wait for a referral that we could have offered that day.

“People often mistakenly think we’re fobbing them off with someone other than a GP, but we’re not. A GP is not always the best person for someone to see. The patient is actually adding time to how long they’ll have to wait for the right treatment.”

Rio said: “We try and coax them along. If you say to people you need to know what’s wrong so we know where to put them, then sometimes they will tell you.

News and Star:  Rio Collins, recepionist Rio Collins, recepionist (Image: Supplied)

“You’ve got to think it’s not personal on you, it’s just the situation.

“But sometimes it’s hard. We eat a lot of sweets!

“We get criticised on Facebook, sworn at down the phone.

“You do also get times where it is very fulfilling. You know that you are helping people. And all the lovely people that come in, they make it worthwhile.”

Hayley added: “If you can speak to one person who’s an absolute sweetheart it just makes those 20 difficult conversations more than worth it. It really does. You do feel like you’ve made a difference.

“That one person is getting something out of that, that’s all we can ask really.”

READ MORE: New roles are a shot in the arm for surgeries in North Cumbria