Intended for healthcare professionals


A multicolour chart for doctors

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: (Published 21 December 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:1319
  1. Hanna Esser, school student,
  2. Gerhard Esser, general practitioner
  1. 1Chestfield Medical Centre, Chestfield CT5 3QU

    Hanna Esser: When I was 5 years old I drew these two pictures for my dad, who is a general practitioner. That was six years ago. Ever since then, he's been coming home telling me what he uses them for. When somebody comes with a cough he asks them which colour the phlegm looks like and then he can tell them whether they need an antibiotic. When patients say that they have black poo my Dad asks them if it really is like the black square, and if it isn't, it's okay. When they say that they've got really dark urine he asks them to point to the colour and usually that's ok, too.

    Gerhard Esser: For a long time my daughter has nagged me that she would like to present her pictures in the BMJ. I indeed use the chart often in discussions about suspected melaena and symptoms of jaundice. Sometimes I wish that there were more “shades of sputum,” but acknowledging some green colour reassures most patients that their message has come across. I would like to suggest a similar chart throughout the NHS. This would help doctors to communicate about colourful conditions not only with patients, but also with professionals on the telephone.

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