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Friday, 4 January, 2002, 12:00 GMT
Bedside manner under spotlight
Consultation skills are to be assessed
Doctors are receiving online training to improve the way they break bad news or tackle difficult issues with their patients.

In future, they will have to prove they have the necessary skills in order to keep practising.

Patients will be asked to fill in questionaires rating their doctor's bedside manner - and he or she may even have to submit videotaped consultations for assessment.

Poor talkers

Many patients complain that doctors - while they are highly skilled at diagnosing and treating illness - are poor communicators.

Mike Stone, the chief executive of the Patient's Association, told the BBC: "It's very interesting to look back to the old Carry On films, with James Robertson Justice walking around the wards, where he never spoke to patients and patients never spoke to him.

"Hopefully we have moved away from that, but I daresay there are some patients whose doctors are still like that."

Helping to teach doctors how to communicate effectively with their patients is Professor Trisha Greenhalgh from University College London.

Training sessions

She has devised a way of improving their skills with interactive scenarios and video training sessions.

I think they find it surprising, encouraging and painful

Dame Lesley Southgate, Royal College of GPs
She told the BBC: "Whatever level one starts from, there is good evidence that one can improve with systematic training."

However, the process is likely to be a culture shock for many doctors, not used to their consultatation skills coming under such intense scrutiny.

Dame Lesley Southgate, President of the Royal College of GPs, told the BBC: "I think they find it surprising, encouraging and painful, because yo have a view of yourself and then you find other people have a different view."

The final arrangements for the revalidation programme for doctors - in which they will have to demonstrate their continuing fitness to practice - are still under discussion.

BBC Health Correspondent Neil Bennett
"Poor communication is a common complaint"
See also:

09 Mar 01 | Health
Bedside manner boosts patients
08 Mar 00 | Health
GPs' bedside manner targeted
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