Objective: Government policies and initiatives in England have promoted the involvement of patients in the management of their own health care. Copying clinical letters to patients may improve patients' understanding of their health and the care they receive. Although the National Health Service (NHS) Plan describes copying letters to patients as a 'right', the process of copying letters to patients remains an example of good practice rather than a requirement. We review the literature to explore whether letters should be copied to patients and in what circumstances.
Methods: Review of published literature and evidence from 12 pilot projects funded by the Department of Health (DH) for and against copying letters to patients from the perspective of patients and health professionals.
Results: Patients generally find copies of letters beneficial, and tend to be more satisfied with their consultation and report benefits in terms of involvement in their own health care when letters are copied. Health professionals generally have concerns about the relative benefits to the patient and remain concerned about the resource implications of copying letters.
Conclusions: On balance, the limited evidence on copying clinical letters to patients favours copying letters, or at least offering copies, although health professionals are less keen than patients.