Why cc patient?

At the end of every outpatient consultation many hospital doctors dictate a letter to the patients General Practitioner (GP) in order to summarise findings from the consultation, along with results from any tests and a treatment plan and details of any changes to medication.  Most doctors will also ask their secretaries to send copies of this correspondence to the patient as recommended by many Hospitals (eg The Royal Marsden Hospital) most often actioned, time immemorial by muttering into the microphone at the end of each letter the words "yours sincerely" and  “cc patient”.

So where does the phrase ‘cc’ come from?

Before word processors and photocopiers the process of medical transcription usually involved ‘banging out’ each letter on an old fashioned typewriter with carbon paper laid beneath the paper ‘top copy’ in order to create the copy which was either filed or sent out to third parties. The term 'carbon copy'  quickly shortened to “cc” (see Wikipedia link) which today, in our digital world is so frequently used  that its origins may have been long forgotten by its many younger users.

It is a universal fact that each medical institution visited by patients has to maintain its own separate medical record and that this record cannot easily be taken or shared outside the institution, without infringing common privacy and data protection laws.  This rule results in a dismaying lack of information about the patient’s data from other medical centres, which is at best annoying and at worse downright dangerous.

Various attempts by the state (for example the NHS Spine project) to resolve this major issue have failed in a spectacular fashion, and no doubt many more high cost efforts will follow.

While various IT Companies battle out who gets what remains of million pound contracts awarded for the Spine project Medical care remains in turmoil- with many offices piled high with casenotes and results awaiting 'pairing up' with their notes, and very little chance of the information they each contain being shared outside the medical centre giving rise to endless complaints, enquiries and at times the feeling of an organised chaos.

To the experienced Physician the solution seems obvious- we have learnt from some of our patients  who, through bitter experience, insist on obtaining copies of their medical correspondence and tests which they hold at home. This is duly produced in various shapes and sizes at each and every hospital or clinic attendance. Perfect- we put the patients in charge of it!. This fact was appreciated some years ago by our Obstetrican colleagues and Midwives who invented the patientheld Obstetric record that is held by most women during pregnancy, but the trend did not catch on across other medical areas. Clearly in this day and age for this to work there must be an electronic record that is owned and shared but which should somehow be under the control of each patient,  accessible by every medical centre visted. 


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I am a Cardiologist working in Surrey


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