Medical receptionist

Medical receptionists welcome patients and other types of visitor. Working behind a desk or counter, they greet people as they arrive, and let patients know when it is their turn to be seen. They might also have other duties, for example, updating computer systems, making appointments, dealing with confidential patient records and handling enquiries made by phone or email.

Work Activities

The medical receptionist's main role is to welcome patients, relatives, members of the public and others as they arrive at a reception area, and to provide them with information.

Their duties vary from one job to another, depending on the size and type of their place of work, for example, in a:

  • GP surgery
  • health centre
  • dental surgery
  • accident and emergency department
  • hospital ward
  • clinic
  • walk-in centre
  • private hospital or clinic.

They sometimes update a computerised records system when patients arrive. For example, they need to make sure that the records contain the correct address and contact details. This is especially important if a patient has not been seen for a long time. They might ask new patients to complete a registration form.

Patients might be able to book GP appointments for themselves on the internet, and also book referred hospital appointments online through the 'Choose and Book' system. Medical receptionists might give out passwords to patients and explain the system to them. Receptionists can access the electronic patient records system to update appointment times available by this method.

They might prepare and print out lists of patients who are due to attend each clinic. They make sure that the patient's records are available for the doctor, nurse, dentist or other healthcare professional (for example, physiotherapist or occupational therapist). Some receptionists call out the patient's name when it is their turn. Some surgeries have touch screens where patients can book themselves in, and an electronic screen in the waiting area that shows whose turn it is next.

Once a patient has been seen, receptionists book further appointments or tests, such as blood tests or X-rays. They must keep all patient information confidential. They might be responsible for updating patient records. They might record details of who attended and who didn't.

Medical and dental receptionists make and answer telephone calls to and from patients, healthcare professionals and others, such as pharmaceutical sales representatives. If they are giving out test results over the phone, they must make sure that they are speaking to the right patient, for example, by checking the person's address and date of birth.

Dental receptionists might sell products such as toothbrushes, mouthwash and inter-dental brushes to patients. GP receptionists might process repeat prescriptions for patients, and deal with local pharmacies.

If a clinic is cancelled or a doctor is ill, for example, they might need to phone all the people who were due to arrive, to let them know and to arrange alternative appointments.

Receptionists might be responsible for keeping the reception and waiting areas tidy. They might, for example, arrange general reading material, or books and toys for children, or display posters, leaflets and health literature, in a waiting area. Apart from greeting and dealing with patients, some receptionists could have a large number of other duties and responsibilities, including:

  • booking meeting rooms
  • organising ambulance transport
  • preparing bills
  • taking payments
  • word processing
  • filing
  • sorting and sending things like mail or samples of blood
  • ordering supplies and stationery
  • operating a computerised telephone switchboard.

Receptionists working in, for example, a hospital accident and emergency department deal with patients and relatives who could be badly injured, anxious, confused or in shock. Receptionists need to alert nursing staff if a patient's condition worsens while they are waiting. They must remain calm and reassuring.

Some medical and dental receptionists wear a uniform. Some might work evenings, weekends and night shifts.

Personal Qualities and Skills

Pay And Opportunities

Typical employers of medical receptionists: Employers include the NHS (in GP practices, hospitals, health centres, walk-in centres, dental surgeries and clinics), the private health sector (including hospitals, dental surgeries and clinics), pathology laboratories and medical schools.

Temporary work, on a casual basis or through short-term contracts, might be available from employment agencies recruiting administration and clerical staff.


To get onto an Intermediate or Advanced Level Apprenticeship, you'll usually need five GCSEs / National 4/5s at grade C or above, possibly including English and Maths.

Employers often look for evidence of relevant skills, including customer service, keyboard skills, number, clerical and general IT skills.

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