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Case Study

Client: NHS Postgraduate Deaneries – South Yorks and South Humber Deanery


Medical Postgraduate Education
We want our junior doctors to do more than cover key competencies in behaviour and communication.


The Foundation Programme Directors had found that previous courses in communication had elicited the response ‘boring’ or ‘done it already’ from their junior doctors. He wanted to find an approach which challenged young doctors, supported their move into a successful career path, and stimulated an interest in communication for the length of their careers. Grievances or complaints usually relate in some degree to communication issues — and those stay on file for one’s entire life. So doctors are under a great deal of pressure not just to be superb clinically, but also to be entirely empathic and understanding human beings.

We are now in our sixth year delivering the course for the Foundation Programme doctors. The course was developed by working very closely with Foundation Programme Directors in two NHS Trusts (South Yorkshire and South Humber, and Trent). By now, we’ve run over eighty two-day courses for almost 1000 junior doctors, addressing key Foundation competencies of communication with patients, working with colleagues, and professional behaviour. According to the emphasis required by the different Foundation Schools, the courses have focused either on ‘Dealing with Difficulties and Complaints’ or on ‘Building Respectful Relationships with Patients and Colleagues’.

Our approach to behavioural and communication change is unusual for its breadth of application, working not just with patients and patients’ relatives, but across the broad colleagues above and below them in the hierarchy. Our needs-based approach has been unusual within healthcare training for its emphasis not just on patients’ needs, but on the needs of healthcare professionals themselves. One objective has been to raise awareness of whose needs we choose to address at any particular moment, and how this awareness (or lack of it) plays an essential role in the development of interpersonal relations. As a by-product of the course, doctors have found it useful for forthcoming job interviews, and one Trust changed the timing of the course to pre-date the interviews. You can see the results of self-evaluations, and an article about the course (published in Medical Education, May 2009) on pages Communication in Healthcare and Downloads.


Annie Rankin – Simon McKibbin – Elizabeth English


‘An essential course for anyone wanting to become a good doctor.’
F1 and F2 Doctors

‘I feel that anyone who works with people could gain a lot from this course. A lot of useful concepts are discussed and there was ample opportunity to practice in a situation that ‘doesn’t matter’.’
F1 and F2 Doctors

‘I actually enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I would! As you say, there is a large area where we think we know but actually don’t.’
F1 and F2 Doctors

‘The course helps you to express yourself more succinctly and to resolve conflict.’
F1 and F2 Doctors

‘Valuable for both work and personal life situations.’
F1 and F2 Doctors

‘An interesting and interactive way to improve communication.’
F1 and F2 Doctors

‘Very useful, relevant, practical skills.’
F1 and F2 Doctors

‘I found the course much more enjoyable than I expected, especially regarding conflict situations.’
F1 and F2 Doctors


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