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Copying letters to patients

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: (Published 07 December 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:1359

Concerns of clinicians and patients need to be addressed first

  1. Diana Jelley, general practitioner,
  2. Tim van Zwanenberg, general practitioner,
  3. Caron Walker, research and development facilitator, North Tyneside Research Primary Care Trust
  1. Collingwood Surgery, Hawkeys Lane, North Shields NE29 0SF
  2. Age Concern London, London SE5 9QY
  3. Whipps Cross University Hospital, London E11 1NR

    EDITOR—Chantler and Johnson suggested that patients should receive copies of letters and summaries.1 We have researched this subject in our practice since 1998.2 Our experience of copying referral letters received such a positive response from patients that we have been doing this routinely for the past year and a half.

    In a recent postal survey of 300 patients who had received copies of letters, 229 replied (response rate 76%), 220 (97%) of them saying that they would like to receive copies in future. Most of the respondents (184, 80%) believed that this should become routine NHS policy and should receive priority funding. Few concerns were raised about understanding the letters, and patients did not report increased anxiety; rather, they were reassured that their problem was being dealt with and they could understand why they were being referred.

    Copying letters has not notably increased workload for doctors in our practice in terms of extra consulting time with patients, but financial costs are incurred in additional administrative time, stationery, and postage. We therefore broadly agree with Chantler and Johnson's argument that this is a policy that, if adequately funded, should …

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