Patients are now being urged to ask their local hospitals to comply with new policies that suggest doctors should use plain English in their correspondence.

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges has reported that correspondence containing complex medical jargon is all too common and can sometimes contain Latin abbreviations. The new policy, branded as The Please Write to Me initiative is being spearheaded by Dr Hugh Rayner, a kidney specialist who says, “The change may seem small but it has a big effect. Writing to patients rather than about them changes the relationship between doctor and patient. It involves them more in their care and leads to all sorts of benefits”. 

The initiative aims to keep correspondence simple and suitable and is targeted at doctors working in outpatient clinics but should be a focus for all health professionals who need to write clinical letters.

The guidelines suggest using a familiar style, avoiding stigmatising language and taking time to consider how best to soften sensitive information will help improve relationships between doctors and their patients. The policy also suggests that any medical terms such as “dyspnoea” (breathlessness) or “chronic” (long-term or persistent) should be translated into plan English to avoid any confusion.

The Royal College of GPs supports the initiative and Vice-chair Professor Kamila Hawthorne has explained, "By hospital doctors writing any letters directly to patients, with their GP copied in so we are always aware of what is happening regarding our patient's care, it should make the process more patient-centred, and make them feel more involved in their care, which will be beneficial for everyone." It is hoped that with doctors contacting their patients directly, rather than through their GPs, mistakes will be avoided and offence will not be caused by referring to patients in the third person.

Freeths’ Clinical Negligence Solicitors understand the importance of clear and plain language in medical correspondence and the need for our clients to understand their symptoms and conditions fully. If you are concerned about any treatment that you or a loved one have received, please contact our specialist medical negligence lawyers in our national team:-

Siobhan Genever, Director (Nottingham) on 0845 271 6793 or siobhan.genever@freeths.co.uk

Carolyn Lowe, Partner (Oxford/Milton Keynes) on 0186 578 1019 or carolyn.lowe@freeths.co.uk

Karen Reynolds, Partner (Derby/Stoke) on 0845 272 5677 or karen.reynolds@freeths.co.uk

Jane Williams, Partner (Leicester) on 0845 272 5724 or jane.williams@freeths.co.uk

For further information please also visit our website at: http://www.freeths.co.uk/legal-services/individuals/clinical-negligence/

For further information on this report, please see https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-45394620