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Junior doctors to be taught communication skills

Published on 06/09/05 at 01:45pm

Newly qualified doctors will have to take a new training programme to teach them soft skills, such as how to communicate better, alongside their clinical training.

As part of a drive to improve medical care and patient safety, junior doctors will also be assessed in areas such as consultation skills, patient safety and teamwork.

Progress through the Foundation training programme will be assessed on competence, rather than the time put in, and the junior doctors will have to undertake a number of different career placements as part of the course.

Bill Kirkup, deputy chief medical officer, said: "By making the continuous development of skills and knowledge central to training, and by making explicit the standards of competence that doctors reach before they progress, the Foundation Programme will improve patient safety as well as medical careers."

The first wave of around 4,850 junior doctors have started on the two-year Foundation Programme, which replaces both the pre-registration house officer year and the first year of senior house officer training.

The training will be organised and run through new foundation schools, which offer training in a variety of different settings and clinical environments such as medical schools, acute trusts, PCTs and hospices.

Senior colleagues in the same trust as doctors on the programme will assess them against the curriculum, and junior doctors will have to prove their competence before they can start training in their chosen speciality.

Health minister Lord Warner said: "As healthcare changes, the Foundation Programme will ensure that doctors going through the system have a good solid base from which to progress in the modern NHS which puts patients in the centre."

Foundation doctors will continue to undertake placements in medicine and surgery under the present system so they can qualify for General Medical Council registration. They may also be able to complete an additional placement, if their trust offers three four-month placements rather than just two placements in the first year.

In the second year trainees will be able to gain experience in primary care, academic medicine and any specialties that are currently recruiting.

The number of students entering medical school rose from 3,749 in 1997 to 6,326 in the 2004-5 academic year. But more doctors are still needed, and earlier this year BMA chairman James Johnson wrote to health secretary Patricia Hewitt, calling for help to make the UK more self-sufficient in its needs for doctors, nurses and other health professionals.

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