Intended for healthcare professionals


Communicating with patients

BMJ 1999; 318 doi: (Published 02 January 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:60

Specialist training should include communication skills

  1. Nicholas Steel (, Health services research fellow.
  1. School of Health Policy and Practice, University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ
  2. Cookridge Hospital, Leeds LS16 6QB

    EDITOR—Blennerhassett eloquently describes the horrors of her treatment for anal cancer.1 Her story is shocking but depressingly fmiliar from other patients' accounts of their treatment. The difference in the two commentaries published with the account throws some light on why these stories keep appearing.

    The well referenced and scientific response from the cancer specialists Tattersall and Ellis reminded me of AndréGide's remark that a person attempting to understand life by merely using his reason is like a man trying to take hold of a flame with the tongs. Blennerhassett's account does more than exemplify “the often slow and reluctant response of the medical profession to health 'consumerism.'” It powerfully describes the brutal results of poor communication. Tattersall and Ellis extinguish the flame of this message by trying to …

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