Developing national outpatient letter standards

The PRSB has launched a project to improve the content and standardise outpatient letters so that professionals, patients and carers receive consistent and reliable, high quality information.

Project background - changes to outpatient services

As more care and a wider range of specialist services are delivered out of hospital, the importance of well-structured outpatient letters is essential to good communications between clinicians and patients. They are the main method of contact and communication between hospital staff and GPs and communicate to the patient a record of the consultation and decisions. They are often the sole record of the consultation held by the outpatient department and hospital.

This project will improve continuity of care by helping clinicians to communicate relevant information more quickly, reducing transcription errors by enabling re-use of key data in the GP system and producing better information for audit and research by carrying information in coded format, where appropriate.

Project plan

The project will develop evidence and consensus-based standards, supporting information and guidance for implementation for use with electronic hospital outpatient letters to GPs. We will consult widely during the project including with patients and service users, carers, GPs and primary care professionals, outpatient clinic health professionals and system vendors to ensure that the outpatient letter standards meet the needs of the authors and recipients, and are easy for outpatient clinics and vendors to implement in IT systems.

Once the PRSB produces the standard and supporting information, NHS Digital will develop technical specifications for electronic outpatient letters, which will be published nationally, to be implemented by trusts and GP practices in outpatient clinic and GP systems.

Delivery dates

  • NHS Digital developed technical specifications - January 2018
  • Requirement for implementation through the NHS standard contract - 1 October 2018

Getting involved - our workshops and surveys

In January 2017 we held our first workshop with 50 clinicians, professionals and patient representatives at the Royal College of Physicians. This workshop looked at what information must, should and could be shared to improve the quality and usefulness of outpatient letters. The key message from the workshop was that standards should promote drafting clear, concise records that are timely and accessible to everyone.

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2 Previous Comments:
Cardiomyopathy UK

Feb 20, 2017 (08:27am)

We have circulated a link to the survey to our contacts, and invited them to get involved. We have had feedback from one service user about the issue of specialist reports not being provided direct to patients as a matter of course (or at least the patient being given the option to receive a copy). At the moment, most people find that the default is that they do not receive copies of specialist reports.

Susie Donaldson

Feb 08, 2017 (12:41pm)

We are for Riomed who installs EPR software into the NHS within primary and secondary care. We are keen to keep fully up-to-date with the latest developments around electronic outpatient GP letters. Our NHS customers expect us to keep our software up to date appropriately. Therefore, we would be keen to receive any additional information on this initiative. Kind Regards, Susie Donaldson. Business Development Manager