It has been suggested that consultants should consider writing directly to patients with a summary of their outpatient consultation. In a controlled trial involving consecutive new referrals to a haematology outpatient clinic, we randomised patients to receive either a personal letter from their consultant summarising their consultation (n = 77) or a brief note thanking them for attending the clinic (n = 73). Patients were assessed for recall of and satisfaction with the consultation by a single independent observer, using standardised methods. At the second visit to outpatients, the patients' median percentage recall of items discussed during the consultation was 67% (IQ range 50-80%) in the intervention group, versus 57% (IQ range 43-76%) in the control group (p = 0.3). Strongly positive views on the personal letter were expressed by patients and referring clinicians. The findings suggest that although personal letters do not substantially improve recall of the clinical encounter, they are feasible, highly valued by patients and acceptable to referring clinicians.