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Communicating effectively with patients

You must make the care of the patient your first and overriding concern.230
You must give your patients information in a way they can understand and make them aware of what to expect. They should have the opportunity to ask questions or change their mind.231
You must be alert to unspoken signals which could indicate a patient’s lack of understanding, discomfort, or lack of consent.232
You should identify yourself clearly to your patients, including providing your name, as it is shown on the GOC register.
You should not make false or misleading statements, for example when describing your knowledge, experience or specialty.
You can only use the affix MCOptom or FCOptom if you are a College member. You should not use these affixes in conjunction with the affixes D.Opt, FBOA, FSMC or FSAO.

You should give patients the following, as appropriate: 

  1. full and accurate information about the services you offer 

  2. an explanation of technical expressions 

  3. information about their condition(s) 

  4. information on how to safely use, administer and look after any optical appliances, drugs or treatments they have been prescribed or directed to use 

  5. written information, for example appointment letters, in:  

  6. accessible formats 

  7. large print for visually impaired233 

  8. clear information about any referrals. See section on Working with colleagues.

You must respect your patients’ dignity and privacy. This includes a patient’s right to confidentiality.
You must listen to patients and take account of their views, including their preferences and concerns, responding honestly and appropriately to their questions.
You should not convey disapproval of patients' preferences, life choices or beliefs.
You should encourage patients to comment on the services you provide.
You should make arrangements, where it is practical, to meet patients’ communication and language needs.
If you are responsible for practice staff, you should ensure they have relevant training in communication skills and awareness of visual impairment.
You should allow patients to be accompanied in the consulting room.
You must assist patients fully in exercising their rights and making informed decisions about their care. You should encourage patients to ask questions and be active involved in decisions made about their condition(s) and management of them, and record any agreed decisions about their care. You must respect the choices they make.
If you are examining children, or adults with learning disabilities or acquired cognitive impairment, you should involve parents or carers in making decisions as appropriate and where it is in the patient’s best interests. See section on Consent.
You should offer patients appropriate written information about local or national services which can help them, for example how those diagnosed with sight-threatening conditions can get help. Leaflets on some eye conditions are available from the College.
You do not have to tolerate abusive behaviour.