Intended for healthcare professionals

Views And Reviews

Knowing our patients: it’s all in the detail

BMJ 2019; 366 doi: (Published 08 July 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;366:l4553
  1. Jonathan Glass, consultant urologist
  1. Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, UK
    Follow Jonathan on Twitter @JMG_urology

Finding out who’s in front of you, not what pathology you are encountering, makes all the difference, writes Jonathan Glass

I have a bit of a reputation in my department for the letters I write. After initial consultations, I’ve written in correspondence that the patient I’ve just met was a Typhoo tea taster, a Venetian fur trader, a waste collector, or a consultant gynaecologist. Letters generated from follow-up appointments have stated that a patient is going to cruise the Mediterranean, celebrate their 80th birthday at Brands Hatch, or—as in a letter I saw today which I had written last year—that the summer was too dry for the patient’s bees so the honey yield was going to be low.

I have, at times, taken a bit of stick from my colleagues for adding these “unnecessary” details into my correspondence. Why does the referring general practitioner or hospital consultant need to know what a patient does or what they’re up to? Surely, a letter from a surgical specialist need only contain information about the changes made to medication, any plans for surgery, or the conditions for discharge or re-referral.

My problem …

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