Good communication with patients waiting for care: core principles

October 2023, Version 3

Key theme

Key action


All communications should give clear steps for the patient’s care, including likely and honest timescales, and what they can expect to happen and when. This will enable the patient to have an informed discussion about their treatment.

Reasonable adjustments

NHS organisations have a legal duty under the Equality Act to make reasonable adjustments to enable people to access services and make informed decisions about their care.


Clear language

Language should be clear, accessible and easy to understand. Avoid language that may risk putting patients off from discussing their care. Additional considerations such as interpreters may be needed if English is not the patient’s first language.

Shared decision- making

Patients should be supported to understand their care, treatment and support options and risks, benefits and outcomes of these options.

Contact point for patients

Ensure it is easy for patients to get information about their upcoming care and to raise any questions via communication methods that suit the person.

Managing appointments, delays and cancellations

If treatment is subject to delay, withdrawn or the patient decides not to go ahead, then alternative options should be discussed. Provide a clear message about upcoming appointments or cancellations. Provide clarity on what happens next and when, even if it’s uncertain, and give commitment to follow up again.


Interim information and services

If care has been postponed, accessible supporting information should be provided to the patient to help them manage their condition e.g., health charities, partner organisations and/or other local support.

Communication methods

Ensure inclusive communications for each patient, taking their personal circumstances into account and making reasonable adjustments. Ensure there is a mechanism for the patient to get back in touch if required. All NHS organisations are required to meet the Accessible Information Standard.

Publication reference: PRN00626