Our aim was to quantitatively assess the various characteristics of receptionists in primary care in England using the validated Work Design Questionnaire (WDQ) a 21 point validated questionnaire, divided into four categories: task, knowledge and social characteristics and work context with a series of sub-categories within each, disseminated online and as a postal questionnaire to 100 practices nationally.
Seventy participants completed the WDQ, 54 online and 16 using the postal questionnaire with the response rate for the latter being 3.1%. The WDQ suggested receptionists experience high levels of task variety, task significance and of information processing and knowledge demands, confirming the high cognitive load placed on receptionists by performing numerous yet significant tasks. Perhaps in relation to these substantial responsibilities a reliance on colleagues for support and feedback to help negotiate this workload was reported.
The evidence of our survey suggests that the role of modern GP receptionists requires an array of skills to accommodate various administrative, communicative, problem solving, and decision-making duties. There are ways in which the role might be better supported for example devising ways to separate complex tasks to avoid the errors involved with high cognitive load, providing informal feedback, and perhaps most importantly developing training programmes.