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The Easier Way to Say No

Updated: Mar 29

In General Practice we often have to say ‘no’. It’s not always easy and doesn’t always come naturally. It might be a GP refusing a request for anti-biotics or saying no to a referral, or a receptionist saying no to a patient demanding an appointment. It often leads to disagreements, complaints and poorer outcomes for the patient and demotivated staff.


Understandably these can be challenging situations, so it helps to train all the practice team to make this an easier and more successful thing to do.


Following these key steps is an effective way of tackling this.

  • Find out and understand why the request is being made. It will help you explain why you’re saying no and in making an alternative solution more acceptable.

  • Show empathy, but be careful not to become apologetic for saying no.


Clearly and simply explain the alternative and its benefits; why you feel it’s a better solution. Emphasise the positive aspects taking care not to make it a negative or next best choice.


  • Always be positive and firm, but polite.

  • Most importantly, avoid saying ‘no’, and instead use phrases like 'there is a better option'.

  • Lastly, get the patient's understanding and agreement.


If you find saying no a difficult thing, give these steps a try? It might just work for you and your patients.

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