To gauge the acceptability of copying a business-like clinic letter for general practitioners, written by a doctor working in the Newbury Community Mental Health Team for Older Adults. Between August 2004 and March 2006 every letter written by each doctor was stored electronically. The letters contained a clear statement of the diagnosis, the active problems and a bullet-point care plan. Any concerns or reactions to the letters were documented as they were received. Between September and October 2006, 50 service user or carer recipients of the letters were sent a questionnaire, checking whether the letter met standards of clarity, helpfulness and content.
Over 20 months 427 service users and carers received a total of 731 letters. One carer asked for the letter not to be sent in future; four carers asked for details of the letter to be modified; in only one was the content of the letter to the general practitioner modified before it was sent to the service user. The questionnaire about the suitability of the clinic letter had a 90% reply rate and all respondents said the letters were clear, understandable and that their content was of no surprise to them.
This report of a successful use of a frank business-like letter copied to service users or carers should be understood in the context of the following factors: the doctor who wrote them was familiar with and confident about the clinical work and comfortable with the style of the letter; he had a good rapport with a generally well-educated population and positive support from his colleagues. With these factors in place, the direct style of the letter was well received by patients and carers.
Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.