Specialist nurses key to improving communication with patients

Boost in clinical nurse specialist numbers would be good for patients – and NHS bottom line, says Marie Curie charity

The creation of more clinical nurse specialists (CNSs) could help tackle poor communication between staff and patients in the NHS, according to a report by the Marie Curie cancer charity.

The report, titled A long and winding road – improving communication with patients in the NHS, suggests that more than £1 billion a year in England is being wasted because of poor communication that results in patients not taking their medication, unnecessary repeat visits to clinics, disputes and litigation.  

The benefits of CNSs working across a range of conditions are cited in the report, and include patients feeling they are being listened to, and significant sums of money saved because specialist nurses are associated with lower numbers of appointments and emergency admissions. 

The report calls on the NHS to develop a business case for improved communication to support care. It acknowledges that referrals to specialist nurses have risen by 40% a year and that CNSs would have to be drawn from the existing workforce.

Low-cost improvements to aid communication could include IT prompts for healthcare professionals reminding them to meet communication standards, prompted question sheets for patients, and patients recording conversations with clinicians to help them understand their care plan.

Marie Curie director of nursing Dee Sissons, said: ‘Building relationships is central to nursing work, and communication skills are key to building therapeutic relationships. Good communication is particularly important to those people and their families who are approaching the end of life.

‘It is essential we continue to support nurses, through better training and development, to have open and meaningful conversations to improve the care and experience that people receive at the end of life.’

Read the report here


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