We read with interest the editorial by Dr Subotsky about the issues surrounding copying clinic letters in child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) (Psychiatric Bulletin, June 2005, 29, 203). We conducted a study to determine parental views in a specialist tier 4 CAMHS centre for children with complex developmental disorders and autistic spectrum disorders. The assessments performed are multidisciplinary and elaborate. Copies of reports are sent to parents who are subsequently invited to discuss the reports. All follow-up letters are also copied to parents. This policy has been in place since 1991.
In our study, 87 families were surveyed with a 54% response rate (relatively low but typical of postal surveys). Of the respondents, 95% supported the policy of receiving copy letters and wished to continue with the practice; 93% felt that the information in the reports was accurate; 68% highlighted the benefits of the copy reports in accessing help from other agencies, namely Education and Social Services. Many parents commented that the written reports helped them to better understand their child’s difficulties.
Our study supports the idea that copying letters to parents is a useful initiative, particularly for parents managing children with complex developmental disorders with multi-agency involvement. The reports are a useful link between the agencies and play a key role in making long-term decisions. They are a permanent record of the consultation to be kept for future reference, particularly for conditions that span a lifetime. Written information also helps parents who themselves have communication difficulties to easily keep track of information.
This policy certainly works for our department and will continue in line with the Department of Health Guidelines (Department of Health, 2003).