Twelve patient information leaflets concerning common gastrointestinal diseases were produced by the British Digestive Foundation and evaluated to determine whether patients knew more about their disease if they received a leaflet. Eleven hundred and fifty patients attending gastroenterology clinics in the United Kingdom were assessed by postal questionnaire of whom half had received a leaflet relevant to their diagnosis six weeks before assessment. Seven hundred and fifty one replied (398 leafleted, 353 non-leafleted). Most patients found the leaflets helpful and easy to understand; few found them worrying. They were regarded as a better source of information than doctors, particularly for information about the characteristics of the illness and side effects of treatment. In all diagnostic groups assessed the patients' knowledge of their disease was significantly greater if they had received a leaflet than if they had not. Individual responses by patients without leaflets showed that fundamental misconceptions persisted about digestive diseases. The British Digestive Foundation leaflets are an effective means of imparting disease related information to patients.
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