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Why is good communication important?

Communication is at the heart of the relationship between health care professionals and patients/relatives. Good communication on the part of the professional:

  • Facilitates psychological adjustment to difficult news
  • Enables patient participation in decision making about their treatment and care
  • Improves patient quality of life and well being
  • Improves patient satisfaction
  • Increases concordance with prescribed medication and adherence to medical advice
  • Decreases complaints
  • Enhances professional’s job-satisfaction and decreases burn out
  • Good communication with patients and relatives is not an optional skill. It is an essential part of professional practice.


Why is guidance needed?

Communicating significant or bad news with sensitivity and understanding is one of the hardest tasks health care professionals have to do. It is a skill that can be learned and used in busy clinical practice. However, patients and carers frequently report that the communication skills of health and social care professionals are poor. Many professionals feel their training has not equipped them to deal effectively with this and other communication challenges that arise in the course of their work. Others have drifted into ways of communicating that are self-protective and not always helpful for patients and relatives.

The aim of this document is to provide some practical guidance for professionals at all levels communicating with patients and their relatives within ASPH. Guidelines are not rigid constraints upon decision making and leave room for health care professionals to use clinical judgment on an individual case basis. Breaking Bad News (BBN) has perhaps the highest profile in terms of significant conversations with patients and relatives and there are many well described guidelines for this specific area. The NICE guidance published in 2004 for improving supportive care for adults with cancer specifies that all staff should be trained to deal effectively with difficult and searching questions, and talks of significant and ‘key’ conversations in addition to breaking bad news or the giving of significant information. NICE suggest that trusts formalise guidance and policies in this area.


Policy Details

Download: PDF version
Compiled by: Rev Judith Allford, Hospital Chaplain
Ratified by: End of Life Care Steering Group
Date Ratified: August 2013
Date Issued: August 2013
Review Date: March 2016
Target Audience: All staff
Contact name: Rev Judith Allford, Hospital Chaplain