Editorials

Written information for treating minor illness

BMJ 2001; 322 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.322.7296.1193 (Published 19 May 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;322:1193

Alone, it's not very valuable—but we shouldn't expect it to be

  1. D A Fitzmaurice, senior lecturer (D.A.Fitzmaurice@bham.ac.uk)
  1. Department of Primary Care and General Practice, Medical School, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TT

    General practice pp 1214, 1218

    Written information, particularly in the form of leaflets, has usually been seen as an adjunct to verbal information in the treatment of specific illnesses, such as back pain.1 Two papers in this week's BMJ take this concept a stage further and investigate the use of patient information leaflets as prophylaxis against patients presenting with symptoms of minor illness. 2 3 This exploration is welcome because, although leaflets are widely used, there is little evidence about their usefulness.

    Written information may complement verbal messages, thus enhancing concordance and encouraging behaviour change.4 Patients will vary in the quantity of information they want, and the professional has a duty to deliver it at an appropriate level for each patient, while the Patients Charter's also states that patients have a right to be as informed as they wish.5 The quality of the written information, however, is not always ideal. One study showed that the British …

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