Writing letters to patients


When writing a letter containing patient (or general) information, you need to consider the following:


  • Is your letter clear and easy to understand? Are you using long words when shorter ones will do?
  • Is the layout of your letter clear, or is the text blocked together without paragraph indents or breaks?
  • Is your text aligned to the left-hand margin? Remember that justified text is more difficult to read for people with visual impairments.
  • Are you using Arial typeface?
  • Is your letter free from jargon and abbreviations? Don’t assume that other people will know what you mean.
  • Has your letter been checked for spelling and grammar?
  • Have you provided a named contact in case somebody has a query or complaint, or needs to respond to your letter for some other reason?
  • Have you provided a direct telephone number, if there is one available?
  • Have you provided clear directions or instructions to the reader?
  • Have you given a clear explanation or apology where appropriate, for anything that hasn’t gone to plan?
  • Does the tone of your letter match the NHS values of respect for all, care and professionalism?
  • Has your letter been signed by an individual, rather than an Appointments Clerk or Outpatients Department?

You might want to think about implementing a local style guide for correspondence to encourage consistency throughout your organisation. You could use the above points to get things going.

Last updated: 07/06/10

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