British Heart Foundation
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Dr's Receptionists diagnosing condition

I am so angry. My Mum without telling me for fear of worrying me, walked into her Dr's surgery saying she had chest pains and was feeling unwell. The receptionist said Drs were at dinner, and asked Mum if she had pins and needles in her arm. When she said know the receptionist said she wasn't having a heart attack so to go home and ring for an appointment later that day!

She has bad back pain, she's being sick and has bad chest pains, but she went home on the bus and is having to go to an appointment later today. Her Dad died of a heart attack in his 50's. She is in her 80's.

Would you complain to the surgery manager or wait for the outcome of what the Dr says first?

Has anyone else had problems with the Dr's receptionist passing diagnosis?

18 Replies
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Oh I would definitely complain the receptionist has no right telling your mum she’s not having a heart attack, years of training is needed for that and I’m almost certain the Drs would rather leave their lunch to attend to someone who needs them x

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I think you need to make the practice manager aware of this. At the very least she could have phoned an ambulance. Any chest pain is an emergency. Regardless of the outcome of your mother’s tests the receptionist needs to understand how to deal with this type of emergency. So sorry you and her have gone through this I hope she is ok and gets the care she needs. Zena

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I agree with the other replies. I am very concerned that some one complaining of chest pain was allowed to leave the surgery unaccompanied. Receptionists are often very helpful and knowledgeable but are not medically trained (possibly first aid trained but that is totally different) .

It may have been the case that doctors were having a working lunch and not wanted to be disturbed but I am sure someone would of been available for advice or your Mother could of waited until after the lunch to be seen then. Another option is that one of practice nurses could of been asked to see your Mother, a nurse could assess your Mother and either ask for a GP review or an ambulance.

I am sure that both your Mother's GP and the practice manager would want to know about this occurrence . Obviously your first priority is your Mother's health and that may take up all your time and energy but if possible don't let this go.

Best wishes to your Mother.

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Make an official complaint and don't back down.

My 82 year old father walked into his GP had exactly the same thing happen to him!

Sent home he rang me feeling worse.

My son is a Paramedic we called 999

He was having full blown heart attack.

I made a serious complaint about the surgery the receptionists and two doctors are no longer working!!!

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I'm asking because I don't know. Are you having a heart attack if you can get to the surgery by bus and walking? What I don't understand is why she didn't at least ring the surgery. I would have thought 111 would be a better choice myself

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Yes - I spent the afternoon at work and drove home as I did not recognise the symptoms!

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Sadly an all too common misconception that can lead to untimely death. Everyone should take notice of symptoms but medics or those trained to act on their behalf have a higher burden of expectation to be both knowledgeable and act swiftly and appropriately.

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I didn't know that. I'd ring 111

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My friends brother died in the car he had walked back to after the football match he watched on Boxing Day age 50 my friends dad died after taking ill at work and seeing nurse my next door neighbours son died in the night alone again age only 50 so it is hard to know what warning he got. You owe it to yourself and your loved ones to act decisively when in these situations the difficulty for the lay person is knowing what these situations are and medics (and those trained to act on their behalf ) should be there to support and act decisively. The first time I needed an ambulance I called my sister instead of 999 it’s human nature to talk yourself out of the worse case scenario another time I had to argue with myself for half an hour in the night before I rang. Both times I was tested and not found to have suffered a heart attack but admitted to CCU I have other heart issues it turns out. During a cardiac procedure I had an ECG change that made the team think I’d had an MI so was rushed for an angiogram (again it wasn’t but a whole team of very well qualified medics in a specialist cardiac hospital couldn’t tell until I had the angiogram).

As you can tell it’s a subject quite close to my heart (literally). I have always been treated quickly and as an emergency by paramedics and hospitals it was only my GP who ignored my cardiac symptoms for 2 years and sent me for CBT for ‘stress’ (I am no longer at that GP) younger women often don’t fit the classic stereotype of a cardiac patient.

I have excellent care now.

I hope you never have cause to test the system - keep well.

Jo

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First thing... How is your mother now?

On hearing the story, I would have immediately called an ambulance and got her checked at A&E if the paramedics felt that was necessary.

As for the receptionist issue, don't act in anger, calm down and decide what outcome you expect? If as I suspect you want an apology and you want to ensure nobody else is put at risk in the same way, going in and simply getting angry at the practice manager or a GP isn't going to achieve much so plan your approach.

Ask for a pre-planned meeting with the practice manager to discuss a complaint. At that meeting set out the details of what took place with times, day, date and summary of the conversation between your mum and the receptionist, idealy in writing.

Ask what medical training the receptionist(s) have and what the practice policy is with regards to patients presenting out of hours with chest pains. Ask to see a copy of that policy.

If as assumed, the receptionist has failed to comply with practice policy then ask what action they propose to take to ensure there is no repeat of this issue, be that addressing a training need or ensuring compliance with policy.

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Unfortunately this kind of response is all to common by receptionists (and some nurses) in small hospitals as well as surgeries. As ibeat says you must have a calm and pre-planned meeting to discuss how this response can be prevented. I asked our local Minor Injuries unit to put in extra training for staff, unfortunately I didn't check to see if this had happened, it hadn't, a child was sent home and died an hour later in the ambulance that had been called out to his home. A needless tragedy

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Hi I was s Drs receptionist it is not our place to diagnose anyone. We have to ask patient for symptoms which are passed on directly to Dr. With chest pains and her other symptoms then I would go to A&E to get checked over. Better safe than sorry.

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My doctors have trained receptionists to triage this is a reality at a lot of surgery’s now. It’s ok if you’re a sharp elbowed or knowledgable person but potentially dangerous for the stoic generation who can trust those in authority or assuming authority a little too much at times.

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It's a symptom of the shortage of GPs. The aim is to stop people with easily cured colds or simple diarrhoea from taking up the doctor's valuable time, although in our practice we will be sent to see a nurse, rather than sent home.

When we first joined this practice some 40 years ago, the receptionist was generally described as "a dragon" who saw her job as keeping patients away from the doctors. Plus ca change!

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Yes, because many heart attacks have many symptoms, I had a HA and had no symptoms whatsoever. Receptionist told me to come back following week as they had no appointments. Luckily for me my own GP was on duty and agreed to see me after I pushed them. Really annoy me they are not medically trained and it should never be their opinion that counts. Thank goodness she's still going it could have been fatal.

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My drs receptionists are medical trained to some level

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I used to work in a country medical centre. If the doctor was close and contactable then I did. If he wasn't I called the ambulance.

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Am pleased to say that when I called my Doctors surgery with similar problem was told to call out ambulance immediately. I should definitely not wait and get someone to drive me into the surgery and any time I should experience this to always dial 999.

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