Select Committee on Health Written Evidence


Letter from David Dickinson, to the Clerk of the Committee (PI 127)


  I am writing to you as Clerk of the Committee because my attention has been drawn to proceedings last year of the 3rd Health Committee session taking evidence on the influence of the pharmaceutical industry. Evidence about the quality of patient information leaflets and consent information sheets was given, and I understand that Mr Hinchliffe challenged witnesses to provide a leaflet so that it could be understood by all patients, suggesting that an example might be submitted at a later date.

  I wanted to reassure the Committee that effort does go into making documents user-friendly; to show that there is some good practice in the UK (which leads Europe in this field); and to demonstrate that it is possible to produce information that puts complex truths in simple language and helps ordinary people to make sensible everyday judgements about risk.

  We may not quite have achieved a universal leaflet, but I and my colleagues (in particular Suzy Gallina and Jane Teather) have worked hard over the last few years to make patient information more accessible, and I annex the resulting model of a patient-friendly patient information leaflet, based on aggregating more than 250 interviews with patients.

  We are an information design consultancy, working with both patients and the pharmaceutical industry to improve the quality and user-friendliness of patient information. In fact it was we who worked with the British offshoot of Novartis, to modify their clinical trial information sheets—cited in evidence to the Committee by Dr Richard Nicholson—so that their consent documents are now something that patients want to read, and taken up by the regulators in their templates.

  Although the model leaflet is recognisably similar to current leaflets, it is better designed, more clearly worded and closely focused on four areas which patients consistently express concern: what the medicine does, the dos and don't of taking it, how to take it, and clear information on side effects (including how likely they are and how serious they are). It does not quite meet the regulatory requirements as they are currently drafted, since the relevant legal guidance does not quite allow such a conversational style.

7 February 2005

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