Ensuring effective distribution of guidelines is an important step towards their implementation. To examine the effectiveness of dissemination of a guidelines card on management of head injury and determine its usefulness to senior house officers (SHOs), a questionnaire survey was performed in May 1990, after distribution of the cards in induction packs for new doctors and at postgraduate lectures and displaying the guidelines in accident and emergency departments and wards. A further survey, in March 1992, assessed the impact of modifying the distribution. All (175) SHOs working in general surgery, accident and emergency medicine, orthopaedics, and neurosciences on 1 February 1990 in 19 hospitals including two neurosurgical units in Northern region were sent self completion questionnaires about awareness, receipt, use, and perceived usefulness of the guidelines. 131 of 163(80%) SHOs in post responded (median response from hospitals 83% (range 50%-100%)). Over three quarters (103, 79%) of SHOs were aware of the guidelines and 82(63%) had ever possessed a guidelines card. Only 36(44%) acquired the card in the induction pack. 92%(98/107) found them useful and 81% (89/110) referred to them to some extent. Owning and carrying the card and referring to guidelines were associated with departmental encouragement to use the guidelines. Increasing the displays of guidelines in wards and departments and the supply of cards to consultants in accident and emergency medicine as a result of this survey did not increase the number of SHOs who received cards (52/83, 63%), but more (71/83, 86%) were aware of the guidelines. The guidelines were welcomed by SHOs and used in treating patients with head injury, but their distribution requires improvement. Increased use of the guidelines may be achieved by introducing other distribution methods and as a result of encouragement by senior staff.
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