OBJECTIVES: To devise a method of communicating with the general practitioners (GPs), overcoming the constraints imposed by patient confidentiality and the low levels of staffing in genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics. To assess the GPs' responses to this method of communication. SETTING: GUM clinics at two centres in Kent-Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells. METHODS: Patients were recruited if they attended the clinic of their own accord without a letter of referral from their GPs; a definitive or provisional diagnosis was made and the patient was managed in the clinic; the patient's GP had received a conventional reply from the GUM clinic for other patients referred in the past. Separate GP letters were developed for male and female patients. These handwritten study letters were read by the patients who took the responsibility to deliver them to their GPs. This was followed by a questionnaire to the GPs. RESULTS: 75 patients were eligible. Seven patients refused to participate. All questionnaires were returned by the GPs for the 68 participating patients (100%). Seven GPs failed to receive the study letter. For these unreferred patients, this was an improvement in communication level from 0% to 80%. 79% (95% confidence interval: 67%-87%) preferred the study letter, 97% (89%-99%) would like to receive a similar letter for future patients. All GPs thought that the study letter was at least as good as the standard letter 52% (40%-64%) thought it was better. For 82% (70%-90%) it was the preferred format for future communication. CONCLUSION: The study has shown a way of establishing communication with GPs for patients who do not object to this. The results also suggest that in the study districts neither the GPs nor the majority of study patients had any objection to the sharing of information between the GUM clinics and GPs.
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