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Patient leaflets are worthless

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 12 December 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e8336

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Re: Patient leaflets are worthless

In the tertiary care setting of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, we do find patient information leaflets very useful.(1). Even though our patients' concerns are more about life and death rather than mundane trivia, they still have the nominal 10 minute follow up slot. Hence patient leaflets do play an important role in our setting.

But giving leaflets is not a passive exercise without any associated healthcare costs. Like any other clinical intervention, giving leaflets can also be associated with significant costs.

For instance, after we started giving NICE recommended leaflets about warning signs of spinal cord compression, the number of spinal MRI scans organised by my team has gone up.(2). Anecdotal evidence suggests that , some of these MRI scans were done in worried but well cancer patients.


1. Spence D. Patient leaflets are worthless. BMJ. 2012 Dec 12;345(dec12 1):e8336–e8336.

2. NICE. Metastatic spinal cord compression: local patient information template [Internet]. NICE. [cited 2012 Dec 16]. Available from:

Competing interests: No competing interests

17 December 2012
Santhanam Sundar
Consultant Oncologist
Nottingham University Hospitals NHs trust
Nottingham. NG5 1PB.