Improving communication between healthcare professionals and patients in the NHS in England

Over the past 20 years a wealth of studies has shown the positive effects of interventions to improve communication between clinicians and patients, revealing that effective patient/clinician communication can improve patients’ experiences and health outcomes.

Building on this evidence base and the 2016 report A Long and Winding Road, NHS England convened a Clinical Communications Steering Group in 2018 to find out:

  • Whether this evidence now supports systematic investment in improving clinician/patient communication across NHS Acute Trusts in England
  • If so, what particular intervention or interventions to target.

The Steering Group commissioned SQW to conduct a systematic review of the international literature on interventions to improve clinician-patient communication. Its aim was to identify interventions that have previously demonstrated a positive difference to patient experience and clinical outcomes, while also reducing financial demands on the health system.

This report presents key findings from the systematic review and the evidence base, which supports the case for investing in improving communication between clinicians and patients in the NHS. Of the options identified by the literature review, this report recommends that NHS England & NHS Improvement initially invest in a single intervention: introducing patient-centred goals of care conversations with patients presenting in Acute Medical Units and Surgical Assessment Units who are at risk of dying in the next 12 months and/or are at risk of serious clinical deterioration and death during their presentation.

The modelling of potential cost savings presented shows significant potential savings to the NHS, as well as patient benefits. An NHS Trust is currently undertaking a proof of concept programme to consider the viability of further rollout. The study’s advisory group also recommended a subsequent rollout of the intervention to respiratory, cardiology and elderly care wards within acute providers.

The report can be accessed here.

For further details about the study, please contact Lauren Roberts, SQW Director, via