Hospital Dr News

Hospital doctors advised to write to patients directly in plain English

Hospital doctors have been told to write to their patients in plain English to promote better understanding of their healthcare.

The Academy of Royal Medical Colleges has released guidance urging doctors to stop using Latin, medical jargon and acronyms in outpatient letters.

And instead of writing to a patient’s GP and sending the patient a copy of the letter, consultants should write directly to their patient and address it to them.

This will involve patients more in their own care and help them to remember what was discussed in the meeting, health experts say.

Five million letters a month are sent between doctors or to patients after outpatient appointments, and doctors have been told to change the way they’re written.

The ARMC report says writing letters directly to patients is in keeping with the GMC’s Good Medical Practice, which says doctors must give patients the information they want or need to know in a way they can understand.

It claims that patients will find such letters more informative, supportive and useful. It also avoids the awkwardness caused by writing about patients in the third person.

The report admits that “initially, hospital doctors may take a little longer to write these letters as the process may be unfamiliar”. However, it claims doctors speed up with practice “until there is no difference”.

GPs will receive a copy of the letter written to the patient, so there would be no increase in the number of letters being sent.

Read the full guidance.

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