This site is intended for health professionals only

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