How user friendly is your outpatient department?: a guide for improving services


'Hospitals can be intimidating places for patients'
'The reception desk is the first point of contact that patients have with your clinic'
'An efficient, well-run outpatients clinic is dependent on all members of the team'

This booklet, published in 2004, was commissioned by the Royal College of Physicians following a joint Working Party of the College and the NHS Confederation that examined the organisation of medical outpatient departments.

The guide is designed to help medical outpatient clinics provide a more user friendly service. Each section has a checklist, which may be used by staff to assess the strengths and weaknesses of their outpatient department.

A few of the proposals may require extra resources but many will already be part of current practice. This booklet, which is available to download as a pdf,  is designed to support healthcare professionals by making suggestions that will help patients: the aim is to put patients at their ease and to provide a better service.


  • Section 1 - The outpatient clinic
  • Information provided before an appointment
  • Finding the clinic
  • Arrival and welcome
  • Appointments
  • Waiting times
  • Management of patients who fail to attend
  • Waiting areas
  • Staff
  • Team-working and skillmix
  • Patients with disabilities
  • Section 2 - Communication
  • Written information and advance communication
  • Other methods of communication
  • Consistency of communication
  • Section 3 - Before and during the consultation
  • Clinic planning
  • Maintaining dignity and privacy
  • The consultation
  • At the end of the consultation
  • Teaching and training in the outpatient department
  • Section 4 - Results and follow-up
  • Results and follow-up plans
  • Side effects
  • Section 5 - Reviewing patient-friendly policies

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