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Professional information

Talking with patients and carers


“If people have the opportunity to ask their questions that is how you can tailor the information to their needs”


  • Adequate time should be put aside in each consultation to provide patients and carers with relevant information. It should not be an afterthought.

  • Before you start, think about the points you want to get across. Limit the amount of information given at any one time. Too much information at one time will overwhelm individuals.

  • Be clear about who you are addressing - the patient or the carer. Their information needs differ and it may be appropriate to put time aside to talk with each individually.

  • Ensure there are no unnecessary distractions and hearing is optimised. Try to maintain good eye contact. Remember the importance of positive body language.

  • Bear in mind the purpose of what you are saying and keep to the point. Don’t be diverted from getting across your main message.
  • The ‘tone’ of your voice is important. Try to avoid sounding cold, or pompous.

  • Be honest in what you say. Use medical terms when they are appropriate, but make sure you explain them in everyday language so that the patient and carer understands.

  • Make use of simple drawings to help with explanations.

  • Check understanding as you go along. Try to avoid delivering a monologue. Use open questions which encourage patients and carers to speak.

  • Reinforce what has been said by providing written information. Jot down the main points, or hand over appropriate prewritten material.

  • Recommend specific sources of further information. Books are liked by older patients and carers. Websites may be appreciated by younger people.

  • A follow up telephone call is always appreciated. It can provide an opportunity to answer any outstanding questions, or clarify misunderstandings. Where a specialist nurse is available, follow up by home visit is often useful.

  • At subsequent meetings, opportunity should be taken to check patients and carer’s retention of information and explain again if necessary.

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This site has been established for the dissemination of information. While every effort is made to ensure that information on this site is accurate and current we accept no liability for any omissions or inaccuracies that may have crept in. If in any doubt please contact your doctor for further advice.

Last Modified 13 August 2004
Maintained by Matthew Harris