New standards for outpatient letters

The PRSB has published a new standard for outpatient letters, to improve communications between hospitals and other professionals, following an outpatient appointment.

The standard will define and structure the content of outpatient letters so that professionals, patients and carers receive consistent, high-quality information. Outpatient letters are sent to a GP practice after a patient has had an appointment at a hospital or other point of care, such as a community hospital, health centre or skype assessment.

They are often the main method of communication between hospital staff and GPs, and in many cases provide the only record of the consultations and decisions for the patient. At present the quality of outpatient letters varies widely, so ensuring they are standardised is very important. Their importance will continue to grow as more patients living with long-term conditions attend outpatient appointments and access services in a wider variety of settings, including at home.

The evidence-based standard has been developed with a wide group of stakeholders including patients and service users, carers, GPs and primary care professionals, outpatient clinic health professionals and system vendors. This will ensure that the outpatient letter standard meets the needs of the authors and recipients. We have also ensured that they are easy for outpatient clinics and vendors to implement in IT systems. The standard is available here in draft form, as it is currently going through the endorsement process. It can still be used in its current format.

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