Background and Policy Context

The Cancer Control Programme (2006) and the Framework for Cancer Prevention, Treatment and Care (2010) recognise the need for health and social care professionals to be skilled in communicating effectively and sensitively with people affected by cancer and life limiting conditions. Both documents stipulate that those professionals with responsibility for communicating significant news should undertake a programme of advanced communication skills training. This is in line with UK wide initiatives which have resulted in the development of an agreed programme of training.

Model of training

Coordinated by the Northern Ireland Cancer Network, the model chosen is aligned with the national (UK) course. It has been robustly evaluated and shown to change behaviours and enhance communication between professional and patients. It is an intensive quality assured course, designed and led by Dr Susie Wilkinson, involves six-eight participants. It lasts for three days (there is also a two day variant), and includes a variety of experiential learning approaches including the use of actors in role play, video recording, presentations, critical reflection and debate.

This programme has been developed and porgressed as a partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support in NI.