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Hospital doctors should write directly to patients rather than GPs, says new guidance

The royal colleges are asking hospital doctors to write directly to patients they see in outpatient clinics, rather than writing to their GP.

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges launched new guidance this week on writing outpatient clinical letters for patients, and said that writing directly to the patient in a way they will understand is in keeping with good medical practice.

They added that GPs will also have to spend less time explaining them to the patient.

Currently hospital doctors write to GPs about the patient in question, using medical language unknown to the patient, with the patient copied in.

The royal colleges have said that outpatient clinic letters are the most frequently written in the NHS, with five million outpatient visits per month in England, and GP often have to spend time translating them to their patients.

But this new guidance aims to solve this issue, by asking hospital doctors to write directly to patients, with their GP copied in.

The report gives advice on how to structure letters and write clearly.

RCGP vice chair Professor Kamila Hawthorne said: ‘I have seen a number of patients who have asked me to “translate” the letter they have received from the hospital, which has been little more than a medical summary.

‘This is a really important change to the way doctors communicate with patients, and I'm pleased that through the Academy the concept has gained support from all specialties – it's now important to get the message out to healthcare professionals across the NHS, and start the wheels in motion.’

As of February this year, GP practices were missing 400,000 clinical letters due to issues with the Capita handover which led to a backlog

Readers' comments (11)

  • Hospital Doctors should also be held accountable for fobbing off patients to GPs for scripts that they could have issued at their 20-30 minute consultations.
    My young patient

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  • Who the f*** is in charge of this asylum, suppose the patient can write their own referral letter as well, save us the effort

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  • with a bp of 180/110 was sent back to gp - letter done by sec a month later and reached us almost 7 weeks later. All this time patient was without medication. There is a chronic problem with work being pushed to GPs by unscrupulous Consultants. Probably a tragic death would jolt them and send a couple before GMC and only then things will change. Incidentally, it is mainly Locum Cardiologists who are indulging in this luxury of unaccountability in my particular Hospital.

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  • About time. After a gastroscopy the consultant asked me to refer to gastroenterology, his own department. After being seen at the chest pain clinic, the nurse ask me to refer him to cardiology for chest pain.

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  • It might, might help reduce some of the crazy tasks hospitals pass on to GPs.

    Or at the very least makes tasks the responsibility of the patient rather than the GP.

    For example if a consultant wants an annual PSA on an ongoing basis, they can now write directly to the patient and ask him or her to organise an annual PSA; rather than writing to me to somehow imply it is my responsibility.

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  • You've got to get so called Specialist Nurses out of the way. Half of the referrals are rejected to Cardiologist and even heart failure ones with BNPs of 150 because they did not tick the columns for the Nurse. the letter says - Cardiologist xyz has looked into patient history and does not want to see him at this point in time. Refer to Community Cardiology if need be:) Will the same Cardiologist be seeing her or is it counted as two referrals and two charges to NHS - first for HF and then for Cardiology. Wonder what the Hospital block contract says !

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  • What a cracker of an noval idea when I have been fighting for the same with my local hospital and the CCG to do just the same.
    Just because the royal colleges NOW have had a light bulb moment it has become a good medical practice and a brilliant thing.
    This should have been happening for the last 5 years already and not only Now.

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  • Needs to happen soon as there will be no proper doctors remaining and all that Latin and Greek gobbledygook will be incomprehensible to bright young noctors and phocters etc who are bringing up the rear.

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  • Vinci Ho

    If you read the report in BBC Health News,
    ‘’The initiative is being led by Dr Hugh Rayner, a kidney specialist, who first started writing directly to patients in 2005.’
    So you wonder why there is such a bigotry amongst these secondary care doctors to follow and change their way of practice earlier .
    ‘Doctors told to ditch Latin and use 'plain English'
    It is genuinely the right thing to do and actually save us(GP) a lot of unnecessary effort. Treat a patient as a person rather than a piece of science , is indisputable.

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  • AlanAlmond

    Damn good idea, might encourage a few patients to own their own health rather than thinking it’s someone else’s responsibility.

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