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Great expectations: a relative dilemma

BMJ 2001; 323 doi: (Published 08 December 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;323:1375
  1. Tom Cawood, senior house officer (
  1. North Glasgow NHS Trust

    As a busy ward doctor I was finding it increasingly difficult to perform my clinical duties while also satisfying the multiple requests to speak to patients' relatives. At visiting time I walked faster than usual down the ward, eyes fixed firmly on the floor. Talking to relatives is an important part of the delivery of good patient care, but it takes time. Not only does it disrupt already tight working patterns, but also it often requires care, experience, and sensitivity. It is not easy to conduct an emotionally demanding interview, while respecting the patient's rights to confidentiality and addressing relatives' questions, fears, and anger.

    The ward could not safely function if the doctor spent 90 minutes a day talking to relatives

    Doctors spend an important amount of their time talking to patients' relatives. In an increasingly demanding NHS good communication has never been so crucial. The time spent talking to patients' relatives is time not spent attending to the other demands placed upon hospital staff. Improved communication should …

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