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Improving communication between doctors and patients
  1. FIONA FINLAY, Consultant Community Paediatrician
  1. ELAINE LUNTS, Registrar in General Practice
  1. Bath West Community NHS Trust
  2. Bath NHS House
  3. Child Health Department
  4. Newbridge Hill, Bath BA1 3QE, UK
  5. Montpelier Health Centre, Bristol

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Editor,—Written information is often given to parents during their child’s hospital admission or outpatient visit. A report recently published by the Royal College of Physicians of London states: “Written information in a form which is easily understood by the patient can be invaluable.”1

We looked at 38 leaflets (15 produced by self help groups, 12 by pharmaceutical companies, and 11 produced locally by paediatricians) obtained from the Royal United Hospital, Bath health information department on common childhood conditions, and used a Gunning Fog test to see if they were “easily readable”.2

It has been suggested that a Gunning Fog test score of ⩽ 12 should be aimed for when producing leaflets for patients.3 Our study showed that 62% of leaflets produced by self help groups and 31% of those produced by pharmaceutical companies had a Gunning Fog score > 12, compared to only 10% of those produced by paediatricians. The higher scores of the self help group leaflet may reflect the higher educational attainments of those designing and evaluating this information. Leaflets produced by hospital staff had lower Gunning Fog scores perhaps reflecting the process of producing these leaflets. Following an initial draft they are studied by trainees and consultants in the department, and sentences are often shortened and simpler words substituted for more complex ones.

Written information given to parents must be readily understood and we have shown that it is possible to write information in an easily readable form.