The perceptions of reception staff in general practice about the factors influencing specific medication errors

Educ Prim Care. 2009 Jan;20(1):21-7. doi: 10.1080/14739879.2009.11493758.


The pilot study presented here is part of a larger project identifying and investigating the factors influencing errors in prescribing and dispensing drugs known to be of high risk: prednisolone, warfarin, lisinopril, morphine, carbamazepine, digoxin and methotrexate. This work has highlighted the central role that general practice (GP) receptionists have in the prescribing process and the importance of their perspectives in understanding how medication errors occur in general practice. Receptionists within Greater Glasgow were purposively sampled from a survey of personal experience of errors involving the drugs of interest. Five one-to-one in-depth interviews and one group interview with receptionists were conducted, exploring the perceptions of receptionists about the factors that influence errors. Four themes emerged from the interviews, related to receptionists' perceptions of factors influencing errors: trust in the GP to check prescriptions; the receptionists' role of communicating with patients; workload; and the hospital-surgery link. This research illustrates the important contribution that receptionists can make to understanding how errors occur in general practice. Receptionists have responsibilities for the continuation of care by communicating with patients, doctors and external care providers and they perceive that problems in communication with these parties can develop into medicine-related errors. These findings may inform educational outcomes for receptionists including involvement in the practice's protected learning time and interpersonal skills development, as well as improved communication skills in other health professionals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Drug Prescriptions / standards*
  • Family Practice / methods*
  • Family Practice / standards
  • Health Personnel*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Medication Errors*
  • Perception
  • Pilot Projects
  • Qualitative Research
  • Scotland