The importance of relevant and accessible patient information

I’ve been lead for Patient Information at the College for over three years and Chair of The Patient Information Group during this time. I strongly believe that we all need to consider the growing importance of patient information, especially following the Montgomery ruling. A key aspect of this is considering what patients regard as relevant when making decisions about options for their care.

Topics taken forward to be developed into resources for patients and carers come from suggestions from many sources including patients, our lay representatives, our UK survey of preoperative assessment leads and from College members. Our range of resources has increased considerably in the past few years and now includes key information leaflets, FAQ’s, risk summaries and a range of risk leaflets as well as our Fitter Better Sooner resources (which include an animation, factsheets, a glossary as well as links to quality external resources). The clinical content of our resources is scrutinised by the Professional Standards Advisory Group to ensure that patients and healthcare providers can have confidence in the quality of the information we produce.

Writing good quality patient information can be challenging.  Materials need to allow each patient or carer to receive the amount of information they want, in a form that they can understand and digest. This helps them understand what to expect at each stage of the perioperative care pathway. This also helps reduce anxiety. Patients are encouraged to optimise their fitness prior to surgery and plan arrangements for their recovery period. It is important that patients feel able to play a more active part in decisions about their care and the consent process. Expectations can also then be far more realistic. It is important that the right language and tone is used throughout patient information resources, so that the majority of patients are able to read and understand them easily. One of my first projects upon joining the College was to clarify and document our standards for writing our resources, taking into account the variation in literacy skills in the UK. We have recognised that patients with low reading ability will have family or carers that can help – so we have produced an easy read resource to help with this. To improve accessibility for patients with sight difficulties, the College website now makes use of Browsealoud software that enables text to be read out or made easier to read.

The electronic leaflets on the website can be accessed directly by members of the public when they know they need surgery. Some hospitals incorporate our patient information resources into their own local leaflets, which is good as long as they are updated when ours are revised. We invite you to do the same at your hospital or trust by accessing the additional resources for healthcare professionals here.

We are working to advertise our resources to GPs and patients through social media and other patient organisations. Indeed, our Fitter Better Sooner animation is perfectly placed to be played on screens in GP surgeries as well as our preassessment clinics and many surgeries and anaesthetic departments are doing just that. If you would like to have access to the video for your hospital click here to download.

We welcome feedback on our resources or ideas for patient information materials that you think would be of benefit to your patients. Please feel free to get in touch here or email: patientinformation@rcoa.ac.uk

Dr Hilary Swales

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