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Readability of information leaflets given to attenders at hospital with a head injury
  1. S Macdonald1,
  2. T M McMillan1,
  3. J Kerr2
  1. 1Psychological Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Glasgow, Glasgow UK
  2. 2Emergency Department, Borders General Hospital, Melrose, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor T M McMillan, Psychological Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Glasgow, Gartnavel Royal Hospital, 1055 Great Western Road, Glasgow G12 OXH, UK; t.m.mcmillan{at}


Background It is common practice for information leaflets to be given to people attending hospital after a head injury. Their role is potentially important in alerting the patient or their family to possible undetected or late-emerging cerebral complications in addition to providing guidance aimed to reduce the risk of further injury, or negative social or employment outcomes during recovery. This study examines the readability of information sheets provided by emergency departments in all Scottish hospitals.

Methods Discharge advice leaflets pertaining to head injury from every ED in Scotland were obtained (45 leaflets from 30 hospital sites). Readability was assessed using two recognised formulae (SMOG and FRE). Legibility was assessed using the Royal National Institute for the Blind Clear Print Guidelines. Content was compared to the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN46) recommendations on the early management of head injury.

Results and discussion It is estimated that less than 30% of the population would understand more than 90% of the head injury leaflets. Fewer than half of the leaflets provide even half of the patient information recommended by SIGN46. Analyses of other indicators from clear print guidelines are presented, together with a recommended format for a head injury leaflet and a metric is proposed for evaluating the usefulness of patient information leaflets in general.

  • Emergency care systems
  • emergency departments
  • mamagement
  • risk management
  • prehospital care
  • communications
  • psychology
  • patient support
  • trauma
  • head

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; not externally peer reviewed.