Good communication skills have a positive effect on health outcomes. Patients and those important to them want to know about and participate in their own health care and associated decision-making so all staff need to be able to communicate sensitively and compassionately. Marie Curie’s “A long and winding road” tells us that confident staff, able to use good communication skills, enable and support patients by:
- encouraging patients to share information
- giving patients more understandable information
- motivating people to take their medicines at the right time and in the right manner
- helping people to live a more healthy lifestyle
- positively influencing a person’s mental state.
Useful resources for all staff
Making Every Contact Count, NHS England
Making every contact count (MECC) is an approach to behaviour change that utilises the millions of day-to-day interactions that organisations and people have with other people to encourage changes in behaviour that have a positive effect on the health and wellbeing of individuals, communities and populations.
Health Literacy, NHS Health Education England
Health literacy is about people having the knowledge, skills, understanding and confidence they need to be able to use health and care information and services.
Population Health, NHS Health Education England
Developing the public health workforce and raising awareness of public health among the wider NHS and social care staff will help to transform public health and improve the health of the nation.
Patients, service users and people affected by cancer report that communication is the aspect of care most in need of improvement, both in terms of the information they are given about their diagnosis and treatment options, and in the level of compassion and empathy they receive. A person’s right to information in order to inform their care is enshrined in the NHS Constitution.
“You have the right to be involved in discussions and decisions about your health and care, including your end-of-life care, and to be given information to enable you to do this.”
Is knowledge power?
Using information and support to empower patients.
This is a paper produced by the Patient Information Forum (PIF) a not-for-profit, independent organisation with members in all healthcare sectors and in every country in the UK. PIF campaigns to ensure that consumer health information is central to high quality, patient-centred care and helps providers develop high quality information for their patients and the public.
In March 2015, a unanimous decision in the United Kingdom Supreme Court (Montgomery v Lanarkshire Health Board) made it clear that doctors must ensure their patients are aware of the risks of any treatments they offer and of the availability of any reasonable alternatives. Respect for patients’ autonomy is expressed in consent law; to impose care or treatment on people without respecting their wishes and right to self-determination is not only unethical, but illegal, and patients must have sufficient and understandable information to be able to make choices. The British Medical Association have a Seeking Patient Consent toolkit.
Shared decision-making is a process in which the patient is involved as an equal and active partner with the health professional in clarifying acceptable care options and choosing a preferred course of care appropriate to the individual. Clarifying and understanding what is most important to the individual is essential. Patients should leave consultations feeling that any concerns have been heard and addressed, with an understanding of what the health professional has communicated to them.
Useful for all health professionals
The Shared Decision Making programme (Health Education England e-learning for healthcare) resource provides guidance on what Shared Decision Making (SDM) is and how to implement it in practice. It also provides resources to help health professionals learn the required skills. The e-learning sessions include films to illustrate examples of good and bad consultations, and prompts along with resources to aid health professionals with their work.
Relevant to all staff
For further information about leadership and team working see:
- NHS Leadership Academy Healthcare leadership model
The Healthcare Leadership Model is useful for everyone because it describes the things you can see leaders doing at work and demonstrates how you can develop as a leader – even if you’re not in a formal leadership role.
- Teamwork, valuing your role and others, Royal College of Nursing
Research carried out by the RCN has shown that good teams are creative in the way they organise services, make sound decisions, respond effectively to sudden changes, provide high-quality services to patients/clients.