It is difficult to know how to ask a patient if they can read


In response to the following article:


No remedial action taken 8 months after fatal insulin incident


Dear PIP editor,


This is such a sad and avoidable case. The story has made me think about whether I do enough in this area. Despite my best efforts, I’m not sure I know how many of my patients are illiterate.


It is difficult to ask someone bluntly:


“Can you read?”


But if they can’t, all the effort we put into accurate, informative labels is a waste of time.


When doing chronic medication service (CMS) registrations I used to have a labelled prescription on the desk and I’d ask open questions about reading labels, mention that I had recently found out a patient was dyslexic and that I hadn’t known for the years I’d been dispensing for him.


But the final step was:


“Can I check if I need to put larger font labels on your prescriptions? What is the warning on this prescription?”


If nothing else, it opened up a chat about putting on your reading glasses when taking medication. But the bottom line is, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of my patients find reading difficult, that I don’t know and that they are embarrassed to tell anyone.


This is worrying and has certainly made me reflect on my own practise. I hope many others consider reflecting on how they counsel patients too.


Yours etc,


Karen Braithwaite, practice pharmacist.


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