Patient information introduction

Information is an important part of the patient journey. It is central to the overall quality of each patient’s experience of the NHS.

The NHS puts patients at the centre of service design and delivery. By providing good quality information, we can help to ensure that patients have greater power, protection and choice in key aspects of their healthcare.

By providing good patient information, we can:

  • help to make sure that patients arrive on time and are properly prepared for procedures or operations;
  • remind patients what their doctor or nurse has told them if, due to stress or language difficulties, they are unable to remember;
  • enable people to make informed decisions, giving them time to go away, read the information that is relevant to them, and think about the issues involved;
  • involve patients in their condition and their treatment (research has shown that good information can improve medical outcomes1 and reduce patient anxiety2, and that patients want access to it3);
  • give patients confidence, improving their overall experience of the NHS.

References:

1. Audit Commission. What seems to be the matter: Communication between Hospital and Patients. London. HMSO, 1993

2. George CF, Waters WE, Nicholas JA. Prescription information leaflets: a pilot study in general practice. Br Med J 1983: 28:1193 – 1196

3. Bunker TD. An information leaflet for surgical patients. Annuals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England 1983; 65: 242 – 243

These patient information resources include guidance on how to produce written information for patients, plus a series of checklists and templates. We have developed these resources in partnership with the Patient Information Forum, the Royal National Institute for the Blind and the Plain English Campaign.

What information are we talking about?

The resources deal with written information for patients,not about patients. By this we mean information concerning conditions, treatments, procedures, examinations, surgery and services – not medical or personal information. The resources offer guidance on how to write and produce information for patients, not guidance on what to write.

Information for patients can take the form of:

  • leaflets;
  • booklets;
  • single sheets;
  • posters.

Who are the resources for?

The resources are for anyone who produces written information for NHS patients, their carers and the public. This may include:

  • patient information officers;
  • communication managers;
  • clinical staff;
  • patient advice and liaison services.

They are also for professionals responsible for designing or printing written information for patients.

What are the aims of the patient information resources?

By using the patient information resources, we want you to help us:

  • raise the standard of written information for patients, their carers and people who use NHS services.
  • make sure that the material we produce is clear, concise, relevant and accurate, and that it is written in everyday language and meets the standards of other large organisations.
  • raise confidence in NHS information; good information allows patients to make choices about their care.
  • make it easier for NHS organisations to produce information that takes account of best practice.
  • make sure that information for patients supports our values and communication principles.

Does everyone need to produce written information for patients?

You may not need to produce your own written information for patients. Before you begin, find out if there’s any relevant material already in circulation. Rather than devise and develop your own, you might be able to use existing publications, such as those produced by charities or other organisations.

Written information is also not always the best form of communication. Not everyone can see, read or understand text on a page. We have provided some additional guidance on communicating with different patient groups.

Does everyone have to follow these guidelines?

Patient information is important and we recommend you follow these guidelines. If you already have your own written guidance, we suggest you review it against these resources. You can also use this guidance to develop your own local guidance.

You can apply the general guidance to all public information resources, however the checklists are specifically designed for people producing patient information.

Last updated: 17/09/10

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