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Copying letters to families: attitudes and experiences of child and adolescent psychiatrists

  • Gillian Combe (a1), Clare Short (a2) and Helen Stephens (a3)
Abstract
Aims and Method

A national survey of consultants in child and adolescent psychiatry was conducted to explore their attitudes to copying correspondence to patients and their families and the impact of recent national guidelines on practice.

Results

Of the 290 respondents, 261 (90%) agreed in principle with copying letters to patients but only two-thirds (n=186) were routinely doing so. Nearly half (n=139, 48%) had changed their practice as a consequence of the guidelines. The majority (n=160, 55%) felt that the guidelines lacked clarity with regard to the complexities of child psychiatry and a third (n=93, 32%) had experienced difficulties when copying letters to patients.

Clinical Implications

This survey highlights some of the benefits and risks involved in child and adolescent psychiatry when letters are routinely shared with families. Increased openness and transparency can enhance the therapeutic relationship; however, given the complexities and sensitivities implicit in child psychiatry, there is a risk of jeopardising engagement and alienating the family.

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Copyright
This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
References
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Department of Health (2003) Copying Letters to Patients: Good Practice Guidelines. London: Department of Health.
Fitzgerald, K., Williams, B. & Healy, D. (1997) Shared care? Some effects of patient access to medical communications. Journal of Mental Health, 6, 3746.
Marzanski, M., Musunuri, P. & Coupe, T. (2005) Copying letters to patients: a study of patients' views. Psychiatric Bulletin, 29, 5658.
Roy, D. (2004) Recording health care and sharing the information – more bureaucracy or a welcome change to prevailing practice? Psychiatric Bulletin, 28, 3335.
Sain, K., Tan, W. M. & Markar, H. (2005) Should GP letters be copied to psychiatric outpatients? Progress in Neurology and Psychiatry, 9, 2427.
Subotsky, F. (2005) Copying letters to patients: issues for child and adolescent mental health services. Psychiatric Bulletin, 29, 201203.
Tahir, T. A., Bisson, J. I. & Wilcox, J. (2005) Copying clinic letters to psychiatric patients. Psychiatric Bulletin, 29, 327329.
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BJPsych Bulletin
  • ISSN: 0955-6036
  • EISSN: 1472-1473
  • URL: /core/journals/bjpsych-bulletin
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Copying letters to families: attitudes and experiences of child and adolescent psychiatrists

  • Gillian Combe (a1), Clare Short (a2) and Helen Stephens (a3)
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