NHS receptionists take the brunt of patients' frustrations over a lack of appointments and long waiting times, research suggests.
A study found staff who are 'front-of-house' in GP surgeries, hospitals and dental clinics 'take the flak for things that are not their fault'.
Researchers argue an inability to get an appointment in the NHS is 'the result of funding shortages' that are 'beyond the receptionist’s control'.
NHS receptionists take the brunt of patients' frustrations over a lack of appointments (stock)
The research was carried out by Lancaster University and led by Professor Paul Baker, of the department of linguistics and English language.
'Rather than suggesting that receptionists need retraining or that surgeons deserve pay rises, we instead noted that feedback is very much linked to expectations and constraints around different staff roles,' Professor Baker said.
'So jobs that involve saving your life or delivering a new life are seen as more impressive than the more support-based work carried out by nurses and receptionists, attracting. Feedback has a role bias in other words.'
Reports of bullying and harassment within NHS England rose from 420 in 2013-14 to 528 in 2017-18, The Guardian reported.
However, the incidents were not broken down according to different types of staff or who was behind the bullying, such as patients or other medics.
To understand how patients treat different members of staff in the NHS, linguists from Lancaster University analysed 228,000 comments that were posted by patients onto the NHS Choices website.
They used computer software to identify patterns in the language being posted.
Results revealed that while surgeons were described with 'positive words' 98 per cent of the time, doctors 96 per cent of the time and midwives 93 per cent of the time, comments about receptionists only used 'good words' in 57 per cent of the posts.
The findings are published in full in Professor Baker's book The Language of Patient Feedback: A Corpus Linguistic Study of Online Health Communication (Routledge Applied Corpus Linguistics).
The NHS defines workplace bullying as arguments, rudeness, excluding people, ignoring their contributions, unacceptable criticism and overloading people with work.
It encourages people who are feeling victimised to find an ally who they can confide in.
They should then speak to someone who can give informal advice, such as a trade union official, the HR department or their manager.
Some NHS employers are trained to help with bullying, who are known as 'harassment advisers'.
The NHS encourages people to stay strong and not take bullying personally but rather see it as a reflection of the bully's own weaknesses.
Talking to a bully can also make them