Bucks health bosses pledge to improve report writing

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Health bosses in Buckinghamshire have promised to make public leaflets containing vital healthcare information easier to understand, after an investigation found many documents are “difficult to read”.

Over the summer health watchdog Healthcare Bucks unveiled the results of its Crystal Clear project – which researched how easy it is for Bucks residents to understand important healthcare leaflets.

A total of 15 documents from Bucks NHS Trust (BHT), Bucks Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and Bucks County Council (BCC) were analysed – with four rated ‘fairly difficult’ to read, six were ‘difficult’ while four were ‘very difficult’.

Healthwatch Bucks said the organisations creating the leaflets “did not always think through the needs and capabilities” of their target audience.

The watchdog went on to recommend that those creating the leaflets should use a readability test in Microsoft Word to ensure they are easy to understand.

It was also suggested that documents from public meetings and consultation papers should also have an “easy to read” summary at the beginning.

The organisations have now accepted the recommendations, and Nicola Lester from Bucks CCG said staff will use the Flesch-Kincaid test in Microsoft Word to assess readability.

She said: “The report by Healthwatch Bucks is a timely and useful reminder which will help us to make sure that whenever we provide written information we consider the readability of what we produce.

“Across the CCG, we have asked that staff adopt the recommendations made within the Healthwatch report for all our publications.

“We expect staff preparing written communications apply the Flesch-Kincaid test and use it as a tool to improve the readability of their public documents.

“To improve readability, we will ensure that all future key documents include an easy-read summary at the beginning.”

Bucks NHS Trust thanked the watchdog for the reminder that “medical leaflets can often be complicated”, adding a new template will be developed for leaflets to improve their readability.

Director of communities, health and adult social care at the county council Gillian Quinton added: “It is vital that officers writing for a public audience are able to write clearly and effectively, and as an organisation we have a responsibility to make sure that officers are supported to develop the skills needed.

“The Healthwatch report gives some very useful pointers and we will be creating a number of tools and information to help our officers develop these techniques.

“These tools will incorporate the resources you have helpfully identified.”