GP Surgeries, the hardest hit by the skills shortage

Jan 03, 2023

GP Surgeries, the hardest hit by the skills shortage

In our last blog post, we looked at a recent report which showed that 85% of UK companies are currently struggling to hire receptionists and other back-office staff.

In this week’s edition, we delve deeper into this trend to examine the cohort with the longest-standing unfilled roles: GP Surgeries.

In a recent survey, back-office hiring was seen as the biggest challenge affecting GP practices across the UK, with over 30% of respondents unable to fill their roles entirely. The impact of this is a decline in the ability to deliver consistent care to patients.

Active Signposting

Care navigation and active signposting initiatives have been rolling out in the last few years with the aim of directing patients to community services as an alternative to booking a GP appointment.

For many practices, this type of systematised approach to delivering care has become the standard for how everyday telephone care requirements are handled.

Unfortunately, many medical receptionists feel less fulfilled in this new type of role, as it deviates from the historical approach where surgery receptionists have interpersonal relationships with patients. This makes hiring experienced receptionists in the traditional way harder than ever before.

With an already strained system expecting to see care demands increase by 7% in 2023, many practices are looking at alternatives to help shore up their telephone operations and give scalability into the next few years.

Managing a high-volume process

Healthcare business process outsourcing (BPO) is the delegation of specific back-office functions to a dedicated supplier. This ranges from coding and billing services to transcription, reception, and other administrative functions.

For many in health & care, outsourcing serves as a cost-effective alternative to recruiting directly and gives them access to the staff that they need, when they need them.

Medical reception outsourcing has seen a widespread resurgence in recent years as NHS England and many GP federations sought large-scale, on-demand reception support for the COVID programmes. These launched nationwide overnight in early 2020 and made the dissemination of the central systematised patient contact strategy an easier go-to-market task.

More GP surgeries are now adopting outsourced support for their telephone operations to help fill their demand gap and create consistency in the level of patient care delivered by telephone.

Outsourcing provides a range of benefits for GP surgeries that are struggling to recruit receptionists.

Instant Access

Having instant access to a team of specialised operators means the surgery can both reduce wait times and maintain a consistent service to its patients no matter how many people call.

This is important, as patients who are unable to reach the surgery or who are unable to speak to a member of the team can become frustrated and if a regular occurrence, may look for alternative practices.

By having an outsourced team on hand, GP surgeries can ensure that someone is always available to respond to patient demand.

Reduce Pressure

A lot has been said in the last few years about reducing pressure on public healthcare services, this still rings true today.

Additional flexible support can help to reduce the workload for existing receptionists. This is particularly useful for GP surgeries that are struggling to recruit new staff, as it can help to ensure that existing receptionists are not overwhelmed by the volume of calls they receive.

By outsourcing on an overflow basis, GP surgeries can ensure that calls are handled efficiently and that patients are able to get the help they need without causing additional stress for existing staff.

Active signposting can be a lengthy process to code patients and ensure that the relevant requirements are met. Pressure to move on to the next waiting patient can lead to cut corners or missed information.  With additional staff available, there is less pressure on internal receptionists.

Live chat

The ability to implement additional communication channels in the form of website live chat can be a valuable addition to a surgery’s operations. Something which would have previously been impractical due to low staff numbers can now be monitored by external operators.

With the implementation of an additional contact channel, a GP service can adopt a multi-pronged approach to managing and delivering its service, this can help to reduce call wait times as patients are able to book appointments, be signposted to other services or have their queries answered without causing additional workload for receptionists.


In conclusion, GP surgeries are facing significant challenges in recruiting and retaining reception staff. Active signposting initiatives and the increased demand for consistent care have led many practices to consider outsourcing as an alternative.

Outsourcing provides instant access to a team of specialised operators, reduces pressure on existing staff, and allows for scalability to meet future demand.

With the increasing demand for healthcare services expected to continue in the coming years, outsourcing is fast becoming the secret weapon for GP surgeries looking to ensure they have the staff they need to provide consistent and efficient care to their patients.

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