What constitutes a high quality discharge summary? A comparison between the views of secondary and primary care doctors

Int J Med Educ. 2014 Jul 5:5:125-31. doi: 10.5116/ijme.538b.3c2e.


Objective: This study aimed to identify any differences in opinion between UK hospital junior doctors and community General Practitioners (GPs) with respect to the ideal content and characteristics of discharge summaries, and to explore junior doctors' training for and awareness of post-discharge requirements of GPs.

Methods: A piloted anonymous survey was posted to 74 junior doctors at a UK general hospital and 153 local GPs. Doctors were asked to rank discharge summary key content and characteristics in order of importance. GP discharge summary preferences and junior doctor training were also investigated. Non-respondents, identified by non-receipt of a separate participation card, were followed up once.

Results: Thirty-six (49%) junior doctors and 42 (28%) GPs returned completed questionnaires. Accuracy was a priority with 24 (72%) GPs and 28 (88%) junior doctors ranking it most important. Details of medication changes were considered most important by 13 (39%) GPs and 4 (12%) junior doctors. Inadequate training in discharge summary writing was reported by 13 (36%) junior doctors.

Conclusions: Although based on small sample sizes from one location, the level and range of differences in perceived importance of reporting medication changes suggests that many discharge summaries may not currently fulfil GP requirements for managing continuity of care. Results indicate that over a third of junior doctors felt inadequately prepared for writing discharge summaries. There may therefore be both a need and professional support for further training in discharge summary writing, requiring confirmatory research.

Keywords: Patient discharg; clinical narrative; discharge summary; interdisciplinary communication; medical education; patient transfer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Continuity of Patient Care / standards
  • General Practitioners / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Patient Discharge Summaries / standards*
  • Physicians, Primary Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Primary Health Care / standards
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United Kingdom