Line drawing of person talking to patient in bed

Patients and their family members are benefitting from more open and honest conversations around end-of-life care, thanks to a range of enhanced communication resources and training available to health and social care practitioners.

‘RealTalk’ was designed to help increase practitioners’ skills and confidence in handling important and sensitive conversations with patients and their loved ones.

Learning from real-life consultations

The RealTalk resources were developed at Loughborough University.  They comprise a series of training modules. Each module incorporate audio and video clips of real-life consultations and evidence from cutting-edge observational communication science. Training modules include empathy, asking questions about pain, discussing prognosis, and bereavement support.
Line drawing image of woman on telephone
Thanks to a recent licencing agreement, the resources are now managed and disseminated by Treetops Hospice.
Sharan Harris-Christensen is the Manager of the Virtual Education Centre in Palliative and End of Life Care (PEOLC) and Communication Skills for Royal Derby Hospital and Treetops Hospice.
She explained the impact of the resources:

Promoting confidence and compassionate care

“Having evidence from real consultations enhances teaching some of the complexities that healthcare practitioners face in their conversations with patients and their companions. At the heart of RealTalk, is the promotion of confidence and compassionate care.
“We are very pleased that Loughborough University chose Treetops Hospice to host the RealTalk resources and deliver the operational aspects for the direct evidence base of RealTalk.
Sharan Harris-Christensen
Sharan Harris-Christensen
“This is the next step for sharing the training resources. We can demonstrate the positive impact of the nuances of compassionate conversations. In addition, we can enhance the confidence of clinical practitioners across the UK.
It has a significant positive impact on the progression of tender conversations in advance care planning and end-of-life care from conversation analysis research.

A need for evidence-based training resources

RealTalk was established in 2015. It originated from research by Professor Ruth Parry from Loughborough University. The research identified a need for a novel, evidence-based approach to communication training resources in healthcare.
REALTalk webimage
RealTalk was developed and managed at Loughborough University for several years. This was thanks to funding from the Health Foundation, the National Institute for Health and Care Research, and Loughborough University Enterprise Projects Group.
With this funding coming to an end, moving the licence from Loughborough University to Treetops Hospice has ensured RealTalk’s future sustainability.

A big difference for patients and families

RealTalk project lead, Dr Marco Pino, from Loughborough University said:
Timely conversations about end of life care are crucial because patients have the chance to discuss and consider all the options and choices available to them.
“Our hope is that the further spread and embedding of RealTalk with Treetops Hospice will help reshape ways of thinking about and designing communication skills training. This, ultimately, makes a big difference to the care of patients and their families.”
Though Treetops Hospice will be responsible for the operational management of RealTalk, Loughborough University academics will still be involved in the project. They will work to expand its underpinning evidence, generate new training modules, and gather evidence of the impact of the RealTalk resources.