Guidance on Creating High Quality Information Leaflets

The patient information resource on this website was originally launched in 2001. At that time the RCoA worked closely with the AAGBI to create a high quality information resource which has been extended and updated regularly since that time.

The involvement of patients and other lay people is the essential quality which underpins this award winning information resource. Patients and their representatives should be involved in the preparation of information materials, from concept and content, through detailed editing of the tone and style of language used, to the design and layout of the final leaflet.

In 2001 we published a book Raising the Standard – Information for Patients which is a useful summary of the principles of how to involve patients appropriately and fully in the preparation of a high quality leaflet. Elements from this comprehensive book are summarised below.

What makes a good information leaflet?

Planning and preparation

You should consider:

  • Who is the leaflet for? How will it reach those people at an appropriate stage in the patient journey.
  • Does a high quality information leaflet already exist?
  • Who will pay for the leaflets, and what costs are justified? (longer leaflets in full colour cost more to produce) Predict the demand and confirm your budget.

Involving people in partnership

  • Whose perspectives and skills will help you develop high quality information?

    • Real patients, both pre and post the procedure described.
    • Relatives, carers and more experienced patient representatives
    • Relevant multi disciplinary health professionals
  • Are there any patient organisations that you should include from the outset?
  • Those whose involvement will enhance the future use of the information – this will often include relevant surgeons, who may wish to give out the information in their out-patient clinic. 

Ways of working
Consultation can take place in a variety of ways.  We recommend that the first stage of consulting people should be a ‘blank sheet’ process. People should be asked ‘What do you want to know?’ This will generate fresh ideas and a fresh approach. This is much preferable to offering your own first draft and asking them to comment.

Opinions gathered can then be built into a first draft. Patient feedback is incorporated into further drafts until a final version appears. 

Ensure that versions are clearly numbered and avoid seeking several types of opinion at the same time – for example, complete a round of patient opinions and make changes, before seeking a round of professional opinions.

All information should:

  • Clearly state its aims and target audience
  • Use simple and clear English – using the active voice where possible and short sentences,
  • Be structured and concise, using clear headings and bullets to break up text.
  • Include some technical words, but always well defined   
  • Be 100% up to date and evidence based
  • Consider choices and risks in a clear and supportive manner
  • Have information on where to go for further information or support
  • Include information on the source of factual or numerical information
  • Be clearly dated with a date for review

Communicating clearly – design and printing
Good design is simple and a professional review of the design is likely to be helpful.

  • Certain fonts are recommended.
  • Capitalisation should be kept to a minimum.
  • Font size 12 is recommended as a minimum, and the distance between lines of text should be greater than the font size.
  • Wide margins, plenty of white space around the text and left justification increase readability.
  • Colour washed pages can make the material more attractive to read, but the contrast with the text must be sufficient and if photocopying is ever used, the quality will be poor.
  • Simple pictures and diagrams enhance publications but selecting pictures that appeal to all is not easy.
  • Consider a good quality paper, as your budget allows.
  • Consider large print, translations into other languages, and audio versions for the deaf. 

Pilot and evaluate

  • The final leaflet should be piloted before a large print run
  • The final leaflet should be evaluated by real users at intervals

And finally

  • Information should be honest, accurate, comprehensive and written without false reassurance that all will be well.
  • Where options may or may not be available, this should be explained.
  • Where to go next for more information or support must be clearly stated.
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