Background: Occupational violence is well documented among general practice receptionists, who are singularly vulnerable because they are placed in the general practice 'frontline'. One response to this threat has been to physically isolate reception staff from waiting room patients by having a perspex shield at the reception desk and a locked door between waiting room and staff areas.
Method: A qualitative study employing semistructured interviews, an inductive approach and a thematic analysis. The study explored the experiences and perceptions of three receptionists who work in a practice with a perspex and lockdown system, and 16 who work in practices without these.
Results: Receptionists were universally positive about the safety measures for reducing risk. But there was also a view that these safety measures potentially compromise the feeling of a practice being patient centred by alienating patients from staff and, paradoxically, increasing levels of patient violence and staff fearfulness.
Discussion: These safety measures, while viewed positively by receptionists, may have adverse effects on patient-staff relationships and exacerbate violence and increase staff fearfulness.