How to produce patient information
This page gives you helpful guidance to make sure that any item of patient information you are working on is evidence based, and written in keeping with Plain English standards and those of the Trust.
What is classed as ‘patient information’?
Patient information is any leaflet, flyer, brochure or booklet which provides information for patients, their families or carers, and members of the public. The information could be about:
- Operations, treatments and tests
- Certain health conditions and illnesses
- Services, such as groups and classes
- The hospital and parking
Before you spend any time on an item of patient information, please make sure that the information is not already available within the Trust. This can be checked by the Patient Information team, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with the details.
The Library & Knowledge Service can check for publications from other organisations, email ghn-tr.libraryGHNHSFT@nhs.net.
You should also make sure that:
- Multi-disciplinary teams (MDTs) have been asked for their input, where appropriate.
- The content is evidence-based, which means it reflects national and local policy, as well as Trust practice – see next section.
- The information is in keeping with the most up-to-date clinical, medical or social research.
- The information you are providing is a true reflection of the patients and carers’ experience.
- If the information is general and not just about one service, ward, or department, you will need to ask the experts from the different areas for their comments.
Preparing the content
We need to ensure that the information in our leaflets is up to date and based on evidence.
There are 3 types of knowledge:
- From research, sometimes called evidence.
- Information collected from audits, sometimes called statistics.
- The experiences of patients, their carers, other service users and staff.
There are often different views in collected evidence on any subject, so you need to be careful not to promote a single view as this would be a biased opinion.
You must get your information from a reputable source. Our Library & Knowledge Service can investigate this for you; please contact them via ghn-tr.libraryGHNHSFT@nhs.net or on ext. 6495 clearly stating the topic/condition.
Guidance on language style
It is important that you use Plain English, as the information needs to be readable to a broad range of people with different abilities and reading ages.
Below are some basic tips, but for further Plain English guidance please visit the website: www.plainenglish.co.uk
- Plain English does not mean using overly simple or patronising language, just everyday wording which is clear and easy to read.
- Avoid using acronyms, but if they are needed put the words in full when you first use them followed by the acronym in brackets.
- Avoid using jargon, this just confuses and alienates people.
- Keep to small paragraphs of understandable text.
- Use short sentences, usually no more than 15 to 20 words.
- Be careful not to use language that could be read as discriminatory or stereotyping.
- Avoid using all upper case letters, italics and underlining; use bold for emphasis.
- Use active rather than passive sentences, addressing the reader personally; for example using the words ‘you’, ‘we’ and ‘your child’.
- Use the registered trade mark logo (®) for drug names where appropriate.
- Keep the main text to Arial, font size 14pt. All numbers should be stated as a digit, not spelt out (including numbers 1 to 10). This has been highlighted by people whose first language is not English.
- Acknowledgement should be given to departments, teams, specialties, patients and other users where relevant, but not named individuals. This information should be stated on the back page. Authors are accountable for the accuracy of the information they are providing.
- If you use quotations, you must not take them out of context – use them in the sense they were intended. All quotations must be clearly referenced.
The format of our patient information
Here is some guidance to help you meet the Trust’s patient information quality standards:
The title should be clear and concise; you can always expand in the introduction if necessary.
The introduction should explain the purpose of the leaflet and who it is aimed at.
The main body of the text
The leaflet should tell the reader what they can expect, perhaps by answering most commonly asked questions.
It should also give information about:
- Possible treatment or care outcomes and should be stated in a clear and understandable way.
- The risks and benefits of the procedure/subject should be clearly described in a neutral, unbiased way.
- Where there is choice, alternative treatment or care should be clearly stated, including any complementary therapies but only if they are offered by the Trust.
- Give a realistic timeframe of the usual rate of recovery and when the patient can expect to get back to their normal activities.
- Explain the problems that could happen after discharge from hospital, giving the reader telephone numbers to call if they have any questions or concerns.
Contact details are included in most of our leaflets, unless the author has a valid reason not to include them. These should always include the time frame for calls such as Monday to Friday, 9:00am to 5:00pm.
Where appropriate, it is helpful to signpost patients to other items of patient information.
Rather than duplicating information about general anaesthetic or parking, for example, it would be much more efficient to direct patients to existing leaflets, which are written solely about these subjects. It is also helpful to list further information sources where relevant, such as trusted websites and charitable organisations.
Good practice guidance
Due to the nature of our business, it is almost impossible to avoid using medical terminology all of the time. If you do have to use it, please make sure a Plain English explanation accompanies each medical term.
You may choose to put the Plain English version in brackets after the medical term, or vice versa, but this should be consistent throughout your document.
You need to give clear guidance to the patient or carer explaining their responsibilities when preparing for treatment, such as fasting before an operation or aftercare. You should also provide practical guidance about what the patient should expect, or do, at different stages of their treatment/pathway.
Easy Read patient information
Information for patients with learning disabilities or autism should be produced in ‘Easy Read’ format, which is very different from standard patient information.
Easy Read information is laid out in a set format to include ‘Photosymbols’ and very short paragraphs.
For more details about producing Easy Read information, please email email@example.com
The patient information process
There are hundreds of items of patient information in circulation in the Trust and to manage them effectively we have a robust process:
- When a draft item of patient information has been created, you should complete a ‘Self-auditing Checklist’ and send with the draft to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The author needs to be certain that the proposed information is not duplicating existing trust patient information.
- All new items of patient information are reviewed by one of our Patient Information Review Groups. The groups consist of staff and members of the public who volunteer their services as patient information reviewers. The reviewers are looking at the item’s readability and whether it is in keeping with the Trust’s patient information policy.
- Existing items coming up to their 3 year review that need only minor changes are reviewed by the team, while those requiring major changes are reviewed by the Patient Information Review Groups.
- Feedback will be put into a clear format and sent to you for consideration. You will need to review the content and accept or reject the changes and respond to any comments/queries made. When the content has been finalised, your item will be formatted into a Word document in line with the Trusts’ patient information template.
- The final PDF version will be sent to you for approval and when we have this your item will be made available online for ordering from the print company contracted to the Trust.
- All items of patient information will be uploaded onto the Trust website in A4 format, for ease of printing when needed. To view the Patient Information leaflets, type the following text into your web browser www.gloshospitals.nhs.uk/your-visit/patient-information-leaflets/.
- All items need to be reviewed within 3 years. Reminders will be sent out by the Patient Information team 4 months before the review due date expires.
What you need to do when your item is ready
- The most important action you can take is to remove all out-of-date versions of your item from circulation, particularly in your ward or department. This includes any old stock, even if there is a large amount (please recycle).
- Make sure that all staff who may be giving out the leaflet are fully aware of the new item and its content.
- No items of patient information should be photocopied, as the quality can be poor, resulting in important information being difficult to read. You can print an A4 copy from the Trust website.
There are rare occasions when due to the nature of the content, some items are not made widely available. Please let the Patient Information team know if you do not wish your patient information item to be accessible via the website.
Patient information items can be updated at any time if there are information changes. You should email email@example.com with the item reference number to request an editable version.
Please note that it is your responsibility to let the Patient Information office know when the leaflet is no longer being used and needs to be removed from website and order catalogue at the print company.
If you have any questions or need advice on how to get started, please email firstname.lastname@example.org