Our aspirations on the copying of letters to patients
You stated 'the Government ordered all GP practices to copy referral letters to patients from April 1' (June 14).
I have scoured the NHS (GMS Contracts) Regulations 2004, which is the basis of the new GMS contract, and can find no requirement for contractors to copy letters to patients. I am not aware of any 'orders' – which are very different from the aspirations of the NHS Plan – and we have advised local GPs that there is no contractual requirement to provide copy letters to their patients.
Whereas, as the article points out, there may be many good reasons to copy letters to patients, we in East Yorkshire and Northern Lincolnshire have been concerned about the extra work this initiative may generate in explaining to patients the contents of letters sent from hospital doctors to GPs.
We believe authors of hospital letters should themselves be responsible for explanations and that the patients should be provided with a means of contacting the authors.
For the author to have this obligation would focus the mind to write clinical information in a clear and lucid way so
patients would have a chance of understanding what is being said about them. This would help GPs as well.
We must avoid another cohort of patients using valuable GP appointments merely to seek explanations of the hospital letter.
Dr Russell Walshaw
East Yorkshire and Northern Lincolnshire LMCs
The editor replies:
This is indeed an aspiration rather than a requirement.