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UK: NCAT Launches Communication Skills Programme/Oncologists


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An innovative experiental programme to help cancer clinicians improve communication with patients and their families has just been launched by the National Cancer Action Team (NCAT).

The NCAT communication skills programme, 'Connected', is designed to equip senior healthcare professionals in oncology with the communication skills necessary for the delivery of high-quality care. The programme, which is now essential for all front-line staff and members of MDTs dealing with cancer patients and their families, including doctors, nurses and AHPs, will count towards CPD credits and the peer review of the service. The course is free of charge, due to an education grant that has been provided by NCAT to all English Cancer Networks.

Local facilitators have been through intensive training to deliver the programme through local cancer networks, while the national NCAT team is responsible for quality assurance and central co-ordination of the programme throughout England.

The Connected scheme is a 'gold standard' training model and was developed for the NHS by leaders in the field with support from Cancer Research UK and Marie Curie Cancer Care. The programme is based on evidence showing the effectiveness of experiential learning involving role play, which helps to develop confidence and improve communication skills.

National Cancer Director, Professor Mike Richards, commented:

"It has been proven that good communication can influence patients' emotional health, symptom resolution and treatment, while poor communication can leave patients feeling dissatisfied and anxious, sometimes leading to serious consequences such as complaints by patients and their relatives.

"Senior clinicians need to recognise that poor communication has an impact on their lives too, contributing to stress, lack of job sastisfaction and emotional burnout. The Connected course is designed to help healthcare professionals address a skill area that they may have previously seen as incidental to their role, but which in reality is vitally important", he said.

The emotional impact of good communication was further highlighted by the Healthcare Commission's 2008 "Spotlight on Complaints" report which found that, of 10,000 cases reviewed, 17% were made about poor communication. By encouraging better interaction between clinicians and patients, Connected also hopes to reduce stress levels within the profession as patients have a better understanding of their condition and therefore require fewer repeat consultations.

Healthcare professionals who have attended a Connected course develop invaluable skills allowing patients and their families to make more informed decisions and improve their experience of care. Analysis of the pilot scheme conducted at the beginning of 2008 showed that attendees rated the course as 'excellent', in terms of how interesting, useful, informative, enjoyable, respectful, safe and tailored they found it. Over 90% of participants said that it met their expectations, was an innovative way of learning and that they would recommend it to other senior clinicians. The evaluation also highlighted a clear improvement in attendees' confidence at the end of each session.

Bryony Lovett, consultant colorectal surgeon, who attended the course, said:

"Good communication skills are vital for all doctors. Appraising your own communication skills or lack of them is often an uncomfortable procedure. This course allows you to assess your own skills in a non-confrontational environment whilst learning from your peers. Whilst I hate being videoed and seeing the playback, it is invaluable. I have recommended the course today to one of our senior trainees."

To find out more about the course, please go to www.connected.nhs.uk. For clinical staff who wish to attend the programme, contact your local cancer network.

The National Cancer Action Team (NCAT) aims to improve cancer prevention, speed up the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, reduce inequalities, improve the experience of people living with and beyond cancer, ensure care is delivered in the most appropriate settings and ensure patients can access effective new treatments quickly

The purpose of the Connected pilot study was to evaluate the success of the unified course which took place over nine piloted courses held in Manchester and London between January and April 2008. A total of 214 questionnaires from 74 participants were data-entered; 73 course evaluation forms, 71 pre course and 70 post course questionnaires. Of the 74 participants, 68 (92%) had linked pre and post questionnaires, and 67 (91%) had linked questionnaire triplets.

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(Medical News Today, Cancer/Oncology; UK: National Cancer Action Programme, December 28, 2008)


The information contained in these articles may or may not be in agreement with my own opinions. They are not being posted with the intention of being medical advice of any kind.

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