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GPs worry over dumbed down letters to patients

GPs are warning Government plans for consultants to send letters directly to patients must not lead the quality of information passed on to practices to be 'dumbed down'.

Under the proposals, consultants would send a personalised letter to patients which would also explain any medical terminology in simple language. GPs would be copied in on the correspondence.

GPC joint-deputy chair Dr Simon Fradd said GP workload could rise because some patients would be left confused by their letter and seek an explanation. 'From the point of view of the language used to make it easily understandable, we can't lose sight of the need to get exactitude into what we are saying,' he said.

He also said the plans raised concerns about confidentiality, as letters would have to be opened by the patient themselves rather than members of their family.

Dr Richard Fitton, a GP who sat on a Department of Health working group on the issue, said patients would try to understand the medical terminology. 'Patients don't want the quality of information to deteriorate or for a dumbed-down letter to go to their GP,' said Dr Fitton, a GP in Glossop, Derbyshire.

Trials in his practice where letters were copied to patients had led to a reduction in demand for GP time, he added.

Health Secretary John Reid said it made sense for patients to 'be the first port of call for any information about their health'.

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