Consultation Skills Teaching Consultation Skills Teaching

Consultation Skills Teaching

At Norwich Medical School our Consultation Skills teaching forms a core component across all 5 years of the MBBS programme and covers many aspects of the doctor-patient relationship.

We recognise the importance of patient-centred care, encouraging students to explore and understand the patient's perspective and expectations about their health care, working towards achieving shared decision making.

The GMC document ‘Outcomes for Graduates1’ sets out the knowledge, skills and behaviours that new UK medical graduates must be able to show.

It states that graduates must be able to:

Carry out a consultation with a patient:

  • Take and record a patient’s medical history, talking to relatives or other carers where appropriate.

  • Elicit patients’ questions, their understanding of their condition and treatment options, and their views, concerns, values and preferences.

  • Assess a patient’s capacity to make a particular decision.

  • Determine the extent to which patients want to be involved in decision-making about their care and treatment.

  • Provide explanation, advice, reassurance and support.

Communicate effectively with patients and colleagues in a medical context.

  • Communicate clearly, sensitively and effectively with patients, their relatives or other carers, and colleagues from the medical and other professions, by listening, sharing and responding.

We introduce the skills to achieve these goals across the 5 years.

  • In their 1st Year students are taught skills to actively listen to patients, gather information and elicit patient’s concerns and expectations.

  • The skills of information gathering are further rehearsed and refined in year 2. Students are then introduced to addressing patient queries and sharing information such as diagnoses or test results in the context of Haematology, Dermatology, Cardiovascular and Respiratory Medicine.

  • In Year 3 students build on the information sharing skills taught in Year 2 and explore in more depth the concept of working in partnership with patients in relation to issues such as medication concordance and health promotion

  • In Year 4 students move on to develop their communication skills in more complex consultations. Sessions in Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Paediatrics cover Breaking Bad News, Communicating Risk and Triadic Consultations. We also work closely with psychiatrists to deliver sessions that enable students to develop their skills in communicating with patients with mental illnesses such as depression and Psychosis and assessing risk.

  • In Year 5 we help to prepare students for some of more challenging scenarios that they are likely to encounter on qualification. This involves student’s applying their existing skills in situations such as managing patient’s expectations, breaking bad news following a sudden death and discussing issues surrounding resuscitation orders and advanced decisions.

An overview of teaching across the 5 years is summarised in the table below:

Year 1

Information Gathering

3 lectures
3 small group sessions

Year 2

Information Gathering and Sharing

3 lectures
3 small group sessions

Year 3

Patient Partnership

3 lectures
3 small group sessions

Year 4

Applied Clinical Communication

1 lecture

Growth and Development

3 small group sessions


3 small group sessions

Palliative Care/Elderly Medicine

1 small group session

Mental Health

5 small group sessions

Year 5

Applied Clinical Communication

1 lecture
4 small group sessions


We use the Calgary/Cambridge model2 as our teaching tool. Students are taught consultation skills through lectures and role play in small group sessions using experienced actors as simulated patients.

Norwich Medical School was ranked first in the 2014 GMC Survey of graduates preparedness for practice with many former UEA students citing consultation skills teaching as a significant factor in their professional development and overall confidence.

Here are the thoughts of some of the recent graduates from Norwich Medical School who are now at different stages in their medical careers:

‘I cannot emphasise enough how useful consultation skills has been, as an F1 you will always get called to speak to patients, whether it is discussing around end of life wishes or explaining what operation the patient had or what the CT scan showed etc.’
Foundation Year 1 Doctor

‘Working as a junior doctor, I can now really appreciate the importance of our consultation skills teaching and the numerous skills it taught me’
Foundation Year 2 Doctor

‘You can definitely see the difference in communication techniques here between the doctors from different medical schools, and I can confidently say UEA are going about communication in the right way’
GP Trainee

‘I am extremely grateful for the extensive consultation skills training that I received as a UEA Medical student. At the time, I didn’t realise how beneficial this teaching would prove, but it has helped me manage some difficult situations in my practice as a Doctor’
ST2 Obstetrics & Gynaecology

For links to lots of interesting articles about communication skills follow us on twitter @uea_comm_skills


  1. Silverman J., Kurtz S. And Draper J. (2013 Skills for Communicating with Patients, 3rd ed. Radcliffe Oxon