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Cancer communications resource hub

This resource has been developed as a guide for those who care for people affected by cancer but is also good practice when working with and caring for people with other health and long-term conditions. It identifies up to date information relating to communication skills and how they may be embedded in the workplace, and brings these resources together in an interactive guide, with live links.

We know that confident staff, able to use good communication skills, are capable of enabling and supporting patients more effectively. Importantly, better communication improves health outcomes and quality of life for patients, and helps to eliminate waste within the system. For example, in the UK 6.5% of adult hospital admissions are thought to be medicine-related and 30% of these arise from non-adherence to drug regimes.

(Ref: Marie Curie’s “A long and winding road”)


All healthcare staff need to be able to communicate sensitively and compassionately with the people they provide care for. Healthcare workers are generally good at communicating but when things go wrong, poor communication is often cited as the cause. Marie Curie’s ‘A long and winding road’ provides us with some of the evidence to support this.

The national cancer strategy, Achieving World-Class Cancer Outcomes 2015-2020 (Independent Cancer Taskforce, 2015) sets out a vision for future cancer services and highlights the importance of communication skills. The NHS Long Term Plan, (NHS Long Term Plan, January 2019, page 24) references Person Centred Care and the support and training staff need to have the conversations which help patients make the decisions that are right for them.

There is a great deal of training already available but improving communication skills is not only about theoretical knowledge, it is about applying that knowledge in the workplace….not about ‘what we know’ but ‘what we do’. This resource sets out “what good looks like” in terms of communication and indicates ways to achieve the change in culture, behaviour and attitudes required to improve communication skills in the workplace. It identifies the levers and the ways of working that can be put in place to encourage and support annual experiential workplace-based communication skills development.

Why communicate?

To improve patient health outcomes: A patient who experiences good communication from their healthcare advisers is more likely to follow an agreed treatment plan. For example, good communication is critical to improved medicines compliance, with consequent benefits in health outcomes.

To improve experience of care: Communication plays a significant role in the care experience, and good communication can have a significantly effective influence on the patient’s psychosocial experience, symptom management, treatment decisions and quality of life.

To improve the service, personal, and cost effectiveness of healthcare: Good communication reduces wasted time and resource, and improves the cost effectiveness of healthcare from NHS and citizen perspectives.

The Cancer communications resource hub

This resource is aimed at:

  • those who provide care
  • service providers and commissioners
  • education providers and commissioners.

The resource has six sections.

  1. Patient: Communicating with patients, service users and people affected by cancer.

  2. Resources and more information: This section contains general support and background information, as well as a list of the resources used during the development of this tool. 

  3. Training and elearning: This includes the training, including elearning, currently available and interactive access and links to communications skills training.

  4. Relevant frameworks: This significant framework is essential to all services and sectors (e.g. health, social care, local authorities and housing) and across different types of organisation (e.g. public, private and not for profit). It aims to distil best practice and to set out core, transferrable behaviours, knowledge and skill.

  5. Leadership and management: The role of leaders and managers, and the importance of communications skills to the service.

  6. Staff: Communications between staff, why it is important and how skills may be improved.

Circular graphic of the six sections of the hub. Patients, staff, leadership and management, relevant frameworks, training and elearning, resources and more information. Patients is at the centre.


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