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GP receptionist cleared after patient heard her call him a ‘******* idiot’

by Anna Colivicchi
21 September 2023

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A GP practice receptionist was cleared of harassment and discrimination after a patient heard her calling him a ‘f****** idiot’.

The legal claim arose from an incident in March last year, when the patient had contacted the practice by telephone to book an appointment for his daughter.

After waiting in a queue, he spoke to a receptionist at the practice and made a covert recording of the telephone conversation.

A spokesperson for the practice’s legal counsel Clyde & Co said: ‘It is clear that the conversation was a difficult one in which the claimant repeatedly sought to vent his dissatisfaction to the receptionist with having had to wait for his call to be answered, and in which the receptionist apologised on numerous occasions.

‘At the end of the conversation, when the receptionist was in the middle of speaking, the line went silent as if the claimant had hung up.

‘In frustration, the receptionist took her headset off placing it onto the desk whilst exclaiming “oh you ******* idiot”.’

The patient, who was a solicitor, brought claims for disability harassment on the basis of the receptionist’s comments, and discrimination arising from disability ‘because of his inability to book appointments’ and ‘unfavourable conduct’ in relation to words spoken by the receptionist.

The GP practice applied to strike out the claim and for summary judgment because ‘the claim had no real prospects of success’ and was ‘without merit’.

Clyde & Co said that in respect of the harassment claim, the conduct of the receptionist was not related to any alleged disability, because she did not know the patient was disabled as he was booking an appointment for his daughter, so she would not have access to his notes.

The law firm said that the comment was ‘a reaction to thinking she had been hung up on’, the manner in which the conversation had proceeded, and ‘in the context of a difficult busy morning’.

The patient was also offered and accepted an appointment so there was ‘no unfavourable treatment’, the firm said.

The judge held that there was ‘no real prospects’ of the claimant succeeding on his claims for harassment and part of the discrimination arising from disability claim.

Summary judgment was ordered for the GP practice on the harassment claim and all of the discrimination arising from disability claim, save for the single allegation premised on the comment made to the patient by the receptionist, which was to be determined at trial as a matter of fact.

The judge held that the allegations relating to the GP practice’s booking system ‘were doomed to fail’.

Following the hearing, the patient discontinued his remaining claim.

Earlier this month, we reported on a GP practice successfully defending a legal case brought by a patient claiming their list removal for abusive behaviour amounted to discrimination.

A version of this story first appeared on our sister title Pulse