There are more than five million outpatient clinic letters written every month across the NHS in England. Typically, patients are copied into letters sent between hospitals and GPs. But for those without a medical background, deciphering what’s written on each page can be hard-going.
This is precisely why hospital doctors are being encouraged to write directly to patients they see, to explain a diagnosis or test results in simplistic terms.
New guidance from the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges sets out a series of steps to make letters and emails less confusing for patients and easier to digest. One piece of advice is that doctors should write in “plain English” when penning letters to patients, rather than using confusing medical terms or Latin.
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The initiative, which is supported by the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), has been led by Dr Hugh Rayner, a kidney specialist who first started writing directly to patients in 2005.