A Day In The Life Of A Patient Liaison Assistant

A Day In The Life Of A Patient Liaison Assistant


Hello! My name is Amanda and I am a Patient Liaison Assistant (PLA) at Denmark Street Surgery, more commonly known as a Doctors Receptionist. Our job title has recently been changed to try and relay to patients and our wider community what our job actually involves. Over the years, Doctors Receptionists have had a bad press, and we at Denmark Street would like to help our patients understand the pressures we undertake on a daily basis.


I have worked at Denmark Street Surgery for coming up to eight years, previously working in an Administrative role for a local children’s Occupational Therapy service. However, prior to that I worked in a small rural GP practice. Over the last twenty years, the role of the Patient Liaison Assistant has changed a great deal with more responsibility and a greater demand from the general public.


At Denmark Street Surgery, our Admin Co-ordinator , Rachel, produces a staff rota so all PLA’s are rotated evenly on the duties that we undertake. This means there is always the right amount of staff on the phones, the front desk is staffed, a team member will be issuing the prescription requests, received either by email, Systm Online or the NHS app, or relaying messages, known to us as ‘tasks’ to the patients and Doctors.


A typical day will start at 8.00am with taking calls from patients who wish to book an appointment with their GP. The Partners at the Practice do instruct us to ask the patient the reason for the appointment as often we are able to help. This is what we term as ‘care navigation’.   Care Navigation is used to help you the patient get the response/support that you are needing as quickly and effectively as possible. Understandably, patients can get frustrated as the demand on the appointments and the phone lines is high, meaning once you have managed to speak to a PLA, the appointments may already have been fully booked. Please explain to the PLA what you were hoping to discuss with the GP as there are other options of getting information to the GP who can then reply to our team, and in turn we can then pass this information back onto you the patient. We may be able to sign post you to the MSK Physio Team if you have a back problem; this would mean you contacting the MSK team yourself (self-referring) and would save you waiting to speak to a GP as you can possibly be spoken to by a Physio within 24 hours, or if you have a problem with your eyes, we could sign post you to the MECS (Minor Eye Condition Service) depending on your symptoms, again you self-refer to a specialist hopefully resolving the issue. There are other options we can sign post to, so please discuss with us and we will do our best to help you get the advice/support you need.


When answering the phone, there is such a broad spectrum of incoming calls; a GP appointment, a diabetic review, a prescription order, an addition to a waiting list, a home visit, a sick note request, a patient wanting to register, a complaint, a referral, a repeat dispensing issue, chaperoning a patient during an appointment, a notification of death, a District Nurse needing support, booking an ambulance, sending an Accurx link to the patient so the GP or Nurse Practitioner can check a photo before ringing the patient back, checking the E Consultations and forwarding them onto the patients GP, sign posting patients, dealing with Pharmacies to arrange patient’s prescriptions, a general enquiry, a change of name or address, mental health issues, a family member concerned about a loved one, a lonely patient just wanting to talk to someone and so, so much more. We receive notification via email if a patient has attended A& E to which we have to add the information to the patients notes. Please remember when speaking to the PLA, although you may have been waiting a long time to get through on the phone, the previous phone call we may have just taken, could have been difficult, upsetting or sad for us to deal with.


Often our patients will see us on the front reception desk. At the moment, due to the COVID restrictions, we are advising patients to not attend the surgery where possible; ‘Talk Before You Walk’, meaning we would ask you to telephone, email the Surgery or complete an E Consultation. This is to help keep you, our patient’s stay safe, and also the staff at Denmark Street. Whilst on the front desk, as on the phones, there are so many roles we complete. Patients may often think the PLA is sitting at the desk with not a lot to do apart from checking patients in for their appointment, but there is so much to accomplish. The obvious role is to check patients in for their appointment. This way the Nurse, Nurse Practitioner, Midwife or GP know that you have arrived in the Surgery and will call for you when they are ready for you to be seen. We receive internal and external post on the front desk which all has to be opened and date stamped and forwarded to the correct place. Prescription requests are also issued on the front desk, samples are handed in by patients, replenish stock, register patients, contact patients who have not attended their Hospital appointments, support a patient who is distressed or help a patient who is frustrated and also deal with any unexpected complications that may arise. Any one day is never the same!


Other PLA’s often carry out other roles within the Practice such as the Scanning Team who scan all the correspondence onto the patients notes as we are a paperless surgery, the Repeat Dispensing Team who arrange for your prescriptions to be issued and ready for you to collect saving you the time of having to order them, the Admin Team who arrange the Nurses and Doctors rotas in advance so you can book an appointment, book the Minor Operation appointments, and collate the patient’s Blood Pressure readings to forward to the GP’s. All of the roles are vital, meaning the Surgery would not work without all of these ‘behind the scenes’ roles being completed. Several members of the PLT are part of the Better Health at Work Scheme where we have regular meetings to see how we can improve the health and well-being of our own staff and inform patients of any up-coming campaigns, usually done by displays in our waiting rooms. We are currently promoting our Face Book page in an effort to let as many patients know up to date and vital information on how to communicate with the Surgery and valuable COVID updates. We also have Fire Wardens within the team who are fully trained in the event of a fire at the Surgery. All of the PLA’s are fully trained in CPR in case a patient has an episode, whilst in the practice, where this is required.


This role is very demanding but can also be very rewarding, knowing that you have made a difference to someone that day. We work long hours, sometimes starting at 7.30am and often not finishing until after 6pm. When a patient takes the time to email into the Surgery and thank a particular member of the team, it really makes a difference. Team work is essential and we have a great team at Denmark Street Surgery from our Practice Business Manager, Finance Manager, GP’s, Registrars, Nurse Practitioners, Nurses, Health Care Assistants, Admin Co-ordinator, Secretaries, Data Quality, IT to our Domestic staff, all who want to help our patients!



Patient Liaison Assistant

January 2021