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Case Study

Client: National Health Service Trusts – Bassetlaw and Doncaster Hospitals


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


‘Although I felt that my communication skills were adequate it has been a real eye-opener as to how I can improve.’
F2 Doctor

‘[Your trainer] was very inspiring and engaging. Thank you! It was both enjoyable and incredibly useful.’
F2 Doctor


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