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Copying clinic letters to patients: a survey of patient attitudes

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 October 2006

A Liapi
Department of Otolaryngology, Epsom Hospital, Epsom, UK.
P J Robb
Department of Otolaryngology, Epsom Hospital, Epsom, UK.
A Akthar
Department of Otolaryngology, Epsom Hospital, Epsom, UK.


Guidance from the Department of Health, published in 2000, stated that, ‘as a matter of right’, communications between clinicians would be copied to patients. In further guidance, the department indicated that, from April 2004, patients would receive copies of correspondence exchanged between healthcare professionals. There has been little research on this issue, and the few existing publications have come from the hospital psychiatric clinic setting.

We examined the attitudes of 100 patients attending an ENT clinic as well as those of 100 parents of children attending a paediatric ENT clinic in a general hospital out-patient setting. At the end of consultations, patients or parents were invited to take part in the survey by completing a short questionnaire. Forty-three per cent of the adult patients and 44 per cent of the parents requested a copy of the clinic letter. These people were followed up by a telephone survey, three weeks after the copy of the clinic letter to the general practitioner was posted to the patient or parent. Eighty-one per cent of the patients and 77 per cent of the parents were successfully contacted for the follow-up telephone survey. Sixty per cent of the adults and 77 per cent of the parents reported that the copy of the clinic letter was helpful. There were no differences in responses between the adult patient and paediatric patient groups.

In this study, less than half of both groups requested a copy of the ENT clinic letter to their general practitioner. To follow Department of Health guidance and copy the letter without patient consent is arguably contradictory to best practice and also to the concept of patient choice. There are significant financial implications in adopting the departmental guidance. We propose patients should be offered a copy of their clinic letter on request.

Main Articles
2006 JLO (1984) Limited

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