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BACKGROUND: Previous studies have reported how often safety-netting is documented in medical records, but it is not known how this compares with what is verbalised and what factors might influence the consistency of documentation. AIM: To compare spoken and documented safety-netting advice and to explore factors associated with documentation. DESIGN AND SETTING: A cross-sectional study, using an existing GP consultations archive. METHOD: Observational coding involving classifying and quantifying medical record entries and comparison with spoken safety-netting advice in 295 video-/audio-recorded consultations. Associations were tested using logistic regression. RESULTS: Two-thirds of consultations (192/295) contained spoken safety-netting advice that applied to less than half of the problems assessed (242/516). Only one-third of consultations (94/295) had documented safety-netting advice, which covered 20.3% of problems (105/516). The practice of GPs varied widely, from those that did not document their safety-netting advice to those that nearly always did so (86.7%). GPs were more likely to document their safety-netting advice for new problems (P = 0.030), when only a single problem was discussed in a consultation (P = 0.040), and when they gave specific rather than generic safety-netting advice (P = 0.007). In consultations where multiple problems were assessed (n = 139), the frequency of spoken and documented safety-netting advice decreased the later a problem was assessed. CONCLUSION: GPs frequently do not document the safety-netting advice they have given to patients, which may have medicolegal implications in the event of an untoward incident. GPs should consider how safely they can assess and document more than one problem in a single consultation and this risk should be shared with patients to help manage expectations.

Original publication




Journal article


Br J Gen Pract

Publication Date



health communication, medical records, medicolegal, patient safety, primary care, safety-netting