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.
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.
- 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.