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Psychiatric patients are sometimes given fact sheets about their treatment but the benefits of these are uncertain. We tested three strategies in three cohorts of psychiatric inpatients--fact sheets alone, fact sheets and subsequent discussion, and control. Knowledge of medication was assessed by questionnaire. For various reasons, only 33 of the 77 patients were included in the study or analysis. Of the patients who had been given fact sheets, 87% independently read them and reported finding them helpful whilst all asked for more information. Receiving a fact sheet alone had no significant effect, whereas having discussed it with a health care professional was associated with a significant increase in knowledge about medication. Patients receiving fact sheets selectively learned more about side-effects than about drug action or precautions. This strategy for patient education could be used by ward nurses and deserves further evaluation.