I was at reception recently and couldn’t help overhearing a conversation at the front desk.
“l know I’m late but can’t he just fit me in”.
“Its not my fault I’m late, it was the traffic, and I’ve rescheduled my whole diary to be here”.
‘But I’m afraid you’ve missed the whole appointment” was the reply. “Hold on I’ll send a message”.
Thankfully the patient wasn’t asking the question about me.
Its human nature to want to help that individual, but actions have consequences. Seeing a patient can have ramifications for the dentists, their patients and the staff.
The dentist agreeing to see a patient who has come in late can end up running late for the whole morning. This then puts increasing pressure on everyone. Does the dentist cut out a part of the procedure to fit the patient in? Do they speed up, increasing the risk of mistakes or problems? Or do they go at their usual pace and just accept they will run late all day? Occasionally they may catch a break and someone doesn’t turn up? But thats not great either, is it?
Then the dentist has to consider the other patients who have turned up on time and are now having to wait. These patients have commitments of their own and a late running dentist can then disrupt the patient’s schedule. And generally nobody wants to hang about, this can cause quite a bit of resentment.
Lastly the staff. Not only have they got to put up with a stressed dentist, they themselves are put under enormous pressure when the dentist runs late. Ultimately it is the staff that suffers the most, missing out on lunch or leaving work late. Sometimes having to go in early as they didn’t complete all their duties the night before.
Thankfully I don’t run late often. When I do, I always try to apologise to the individual I have kept waiting. Sometimes its my fault because I’m just too pernickety and want to give my best treatment. Sometimes its because I hate saying no to somebody and I’ll therefore see that patient who is late. Sometimes we have to fit in emergencies. And sometimes treatments just don’t go to plan. Increasingly though we are saying no more often and especially to the persistent offenders.
So the next time you are running late and the dentist unfortunately can’t fit you in I hope the piece above helps explain, in some small measure, why the dentist may say no. My suggestion is to turn up 5 minutes early because there is always lots of paperwork to fill in, to satisfy increasing NHS regulations. Bit of advice – don’t give the lovely member of staff at the front desk a hard time, he or she is just the messenger.
Heres an example of our practice policy on missed appointments