Receptionists are often the first person NHS patients see. They use customer service and admin skills to welcome people to a hospital, health centre, clinic or NHS headquarters.
This page has information on the role of receptionist, including entry requirements and skills needed.
As a receptionist, youre often the first person that patients meet when they go to a hospital, clinic or health centre. You'll:
- book patients in for appointments
- enter patients’ details onto computer systems
- direct patients where to go within the department or health centre
As well as dealing with patients face-to-face, receptionists often:
- answer phones, sometimes directing calls to other staff through the switchboard or phone system
- book appointments by phone
- answer queries from patients and other staff
Patients and their relatives can be nervous or upset when they visit a hospital or clinic so as a receptionist, you may have to calm them down or reassure them. Some receptionists may combine the job with other admin duties, such as:
- chasing up reports
- inputting data
- ordering stationery
- word processing
Receptionists work with clerks, health records staff and other admin staff. Depending on where you work, you'll have contact with healthcare professionals such as GPs or nurses. If you work in a specialist clinic or in a health centre you may also deal with, for example, chiropodists, physiotherapists and occupational therapists.
Entry requirements, skills and interests
There are no set entry requirements to become a receptionist. Employers usually expect good literacy, numeracy and IT skills. They may ask for GCSEs or equivalent qualifications. Employers often ask for relevant work experience. Even where this is not specified, it would be an advantage if you have worked in an admin or customer service role.
Receptionists need to:
- be friendly and welcoming
- be patient and understanding
- follow instructions and procedures
- work accurately and methodically
- work in a team but use their own initiative
- work with all types of people
- deal with people who may be angry or upset
- be confident using the phone
- organisation skills
- good communication skills
- IT skills
- excellent customer service skills
Training and development
You will get the training you need to do the job. This includes an introduction to the department, how to use the IT and phone equipment and the procedures to follow. You may also have training in customer care.You may be offered the chance to take qualifications such as NVQs or those from:
- Association of Medical Secretaries, Practice Managers, Administrators and Receptionists (AMSPAR)
- British Society of Medical Secretaries and Administrators (BSMSA)
Some receptionists become members of AMSPAR or BSMSA. Both AMSPAR and BSMSA offer training, online forums and newsletters so staff can network with others doing the same type of work.
- Pay and conditions Expand / Collapse
Administrative staff in the NHS are paid on the Agenda for Change (AfC) pay system. As a receptionist you would typically be on AfC band 2 or 3. With further training and qualifications you could consider supervisory and managerial posts higher bands. Terms and conditions will be different for administrative staff working outside of the NHS. Receptionists work standard hours of around 37.5 a week. Some staff may work shifts, which could involve nights, early starts, evenings and weekends.
- Where the role can lead Expand / Collapse
With experience, you could become a team leader, coordinating the work of a team of reception and allied staff. With further experience, you could become a manager, responsible for the staff in a broader department. Some receptionists move into specialist roles such as medical secretary or PA. Others move into areas such as finance or HR. You may also have the opportunity to move into informatics, specialising in electronic data, or into IT.
- Job market and vacancies Expand / Collapse
Most NHS trusts advertise their vacancies on NHS Jobs. Some advertise on their own websites. You can find a list of NHS organisations on NHS Choices. Jobs in GP surgeries and health centres are often advertised locally.
If you're applying for a role either directly in the NHS or in an organisation that provides NHS services, you'll be asked to show how you think the NHS values apply in your everyday work.
- Further information Expand / Collapse
To find out more about a career as a receptionist in the health sector, please contact: