Health workers must do more to ensure patients can understand the advice they have been given, leading doctors have said.
The Royal College of General Practitioners said many people find health information “too complicated”.
People are at higher risk of emergency admission into hospital and serious health conditions if they do not understand the advice given to them, a spokeswoman said.
The college said that health professionals coul sometimes overestimate how “health literate” their patients are.
Research by the college highlights incidents such as patients missing a chest X-ray because they did not know to look for radiology and misunderstandings of common terms, such as people believing that “chronic” means “serious” rather than persistent.
Maureen Baker, chair of the RCGP, said: “Too often, our healthcare environments fail to recognise the needs of people with different levels of understanding about their health, meaning that patients are failing to receive the right care at the right time.
“We know that low health literacy affects all areas of health and health care, which is why we want to encourage GPs and the wider NHS to ensure they are communicating complex information in a clear and manageable way.”