Doctors' communication of trust, care, and respect

BMJ 2004; 328 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.328.7451.1317-a (Published 27 May 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;328:1317

Details of paper were incorrect

  1. Lesley Fallowfield, professor of psycho-oncology (L.J.Fallowfield{at}sussex.ac.uk)
  1. Cancer Research UK Psychosocial Oncology Group, Brighton and Sussex Medical School, Falmer, Brighton, East Sussex BN1 9QG

    EDITOR—Burkitt Wright et al have not attended one of my group's communication skills courses; yet that doesn't stop them from saying that patients valued forms of communication that are currently not emphasised in training and research, and did not intrinsically value others that are currently thought important, including provision of information and choice.1 Apart from the breathtakingly absurd suggestion that a qualitative analysis of views of 39 women with breast cancer should overturn painstaking research and survey findings gathered by many, their assertions are factually incorrect.

    Firstly, we always ensure that patient needs inform the content of communication skills courses by involving patient groups and considering empirical research findings.

    Secondly, patient centredness is a core component of our courses, which includes learning how to tailor information giving, providing choice if wanted, responding appropriately to patient led cues, and expressing empathy and respect.

    Thirdly, each day CancerBACUP receives many calls from distressed patients and relatives made anxious and distraught by the lack of information they have received. We need trust, care, and respect, but no convincing evidence exists to show that those things in themselves are enough.

    I am indignant that our work and that that of others whom I respect receives such short shrift from Burkitt Wright et al.1 The efficacy of our most recent training courses was demonstrated by improving doctors' skills in all the key areas that the authors seem to believe that only they have ever thought about.2 3 Furthermore, more than 3000 patients in clinics throughout the United Kingdom commented in detail about the communication they received in exit interviews and questionnaires.

    Shame on the BMJ for publishing a paper that is likely to help undo all the work many of us have been engaged with when trying to produce a sensible framework for communication skills teaching.


    • Competing interests LF's research team have been funded for the past 15 years, developing ways to improve communication skills training for healthcare professionals.


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