Introduction: Sending patients a copy of the letters that are produced for their referring general practitioners (GPs) from an out-patient consultation is a policy of the UK Department of Health. Little research has been done to establish how patients attending out-patient departments feel about this practice and the effect this may have on the department itself.
Patients and methods: We asked 500 patients attending our out-patient department to complete a questionnaire. Patients were only included if they had previously been offered a copy letter by our department.
Results: Of patients, 95% were in favour of the practice and 93.4% understood all or most of the contents of the letter. Dictation in front of the patients made them less likely to request a copy of the letter (P < 0.001). Impact of queries related to the letters was minimal with only three patients making contact with the department during the 3 months that the study was being conducted.
Conclusions: Our experience has shown that copying patients into their GP letters is a useful and popular practice for patients and has little impact on the running of the department. Patients also are in favour of having their letter dictated in their presence and this reduces their need to have a copy sent to them.