A survey of communication skills training in UK Schools of Medicine: present practices and prospective proposals

O Hargie, D Dickson, M Boohan, K Hughes

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    155 Citations (Scopus)


    It is now widely accepted that effective interpersonal communication is at the heart of quality health care delivery but that current standards in medicine must be improved (Numann 1988; Cowan et al. 1992). One approach acknowledged by the General Medical Council (1991) devotes more attention during training to the theme of communication, and quite significant modifications of the undergraduate medical curriculum are presently taking place. This article documents the results of a postal survey of the 26 UK Schools of Medicine, designed to illuminate current practices and future plans in respect of communication skills training (CST). As such, it takes advantage of the present period of ongoing curricular innovation and change to extend and update earlier reviews (Whitehouse 1991; Frederikson & Bull 1992). A total of 19 responses was received. Following preliminary analysis, the four schools who had already implemented their new curriculum were selected for further in-depth investigation by means of telephone interviews. In addition to reporting frequencies and percentages for responses to questions, cross-tabulations were carried out to explore relationships between certain of the findings. Apart from some consistency in CST teaching methods adopted, the overall picture to emerge is one of considerable variability in such areas as course content, timing, duration and assessment. Foremost among the difficulties encountered in implementing CST appeared to be lack of adequate physical resources and suitably trained staff. Future plans were often sketchy and inchoate. Results are discussed and tentative recommendations for the further development of CST in the medical curriculum proffered.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)25-34
    JournalMedical Education
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - Jan 1998


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