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It’s all English to you!

Copperfield

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Yes. At last. Someone sensible says something useful about something relevant. When does that ever happen? Well, it has.

Because, in an effort to improve hospital/patient communication, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges has launched new guidance suggesting that convention should be turned on its head: consultants’ outpatient letters, it says, should be addressed to the patient and copied to the GP rather than vice versa.

This is great. And if you’re feeling a teensy bit patronised at the prospect of dumbed-down patient-friendly versions of what normally arrives as a mixture of florid medicospeak, acronyms and bombast, then I do believe you’re overlooking the obvious advantages, specifically:

1. No more wasted consultations trying to explain to blank faced punters what a lesion is or what supratentorial means.

I’m going to send a letter of thanks to all the consultants in advance. In Greek.

2. Also no more wasted consultations explaining that, yes, the letter really was meant to go to them, no, they didn’t then have to bring it to me, yes, it is a copy of the letter the consultant already sent me, no, I don’t know what ‘cc’ actually stands for etc etc.

3. Improved outpatient consultations courtesy of consultants being forced to start thinking and communicating in patient-friendly subtitles.

4. Less risk of workload dump, given that it will be tricky to tell the patient in writing to tell the GP to tell the hospital to arrange a follow-up scan for an adrenal incidentaloma.

5. The possibility of us turning the tables on patients by having to get them to explain to us whether they think the sentence ‘…and your heart trace just shows a trivial abnormality which is nothing to worry about…’ might – given that I’m in the mood to increase their quetiapine – mean a significantly prolonged corrected QT interval?

I’m so happy, in fact, that I’m going to send a letter of thanks to all the consultants in advance. And I’m going to write it in Greek.

Dr Tony Copperfield is a jobbing GP in Essex

 

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Readers' comments (8)

  • AlanAlmond

    αυτό είναι θαυμάσιο!

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  • "trying to explain to blank faced punters what a lesion is..."

    Easy.

    A lesion is a thing that is there when it shouldn't be.

    Except when a lesion is something that is not there when it should be.

    What could be clearer?

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  • dumping will continue, but may change from direct requests to more of "I hope your GP would be agreeable to refer/book/follow up"

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  • Dr Tea is unfortunately absolutely correct - and it will of course increase the pressure on the GP to perform the action, not reduce it.

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  • Doctors often use code language to tell each other what they really think. Eg This patient has anterior knee pain syndrome and would benefit from physiotherapy, would become, this patient has a sore knee and there is nothing I can do about it.

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  • cc = carbon copy, but you knew that.

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  • Coded language is precise and professional. I do not see lawyers buying this so why should we. If it does happen yes Copperfield offers some condolences but from experience, I bet the patients will still turn up and ask you to re-explain what is in plain English not just once.

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  • Should prevent patients being discharged as 'much improved' when they told the consultant just the opposite. (something I'm seeing a lot of)

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