Patient information leaflets – Clarkson shares his thoughts

Jeremy Clarkson has taken a pop at patient information leaflets in The Sun newspaper. He has a point, writes Professor Theo Raynor, and pharmacists must not be complacent about their usefulness.

Clarkson’s piece was headed “Warned off pill popping”, and referred to a patient information leaflet his mother had been given. The language used, such as describing the leaflet as “hysterical”, could lead to this being regarded as a cheap shot, but if some patients or carers do have impressions similar to Clarkson, then we have to address them.

Firstly, some current patient leaflets, despite having to be user tested with lay people, remain less than optimal, possibly because user testing is sometimes regarded as an end in itself, rather than being integrated with expertise in information writing and design. Testing only identifies where the problems are; it does not resolve them. User testing should always be regarded as an iterative and formative process: testing, improving, then testing again.

Secondly, every time a patient gets a new medicine, the pharmacist should go through the leaflet with them, pointing out the important points and correcting any misunderstandings such as those which Clarkson appears to have had.

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