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