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Communication vital part of patient safety



from the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners

7 April 2008

Communication vital part of patient safety

Communication skills are fundamental components of general practice training courses within New Zealand, says the College of GPs.

“Communication with patients is a vital skill, and any GP who becomes vocationally registered in New Zealand has had to prove that ability,” says RNZCGP president Dr Jonathan Fox.

Dr Fox was commenting on the report from Health & Disability Commissioner Ron Paterson today that language difficulties, or proper communication, are at the heart of many complaints made to him by frightened, frustrated and sometimes racist patients.

“GPs must pass the College’s primary membership exam (Primex) where almost a third of the 10-hour exam is working through actual consultations where actors play the patient.

“That quickly brings out any problems,” he said.

As a would-be GP proceeds toward Fellowship of the College (a further two years of training) a peer review where consultations are assessed also acts as a reality check.

“Effective communication is a patient safety issue,” Dr Fox said.

“We are concerned because increasing numbers of doctors are given temporary or general registration by the Medical Council of New Zealand and are allowed to work without any vocational training whatsoever.

“At last count the Medical Council indicated there are 1100 doctors in this category.”

Dr Fox said general practice is a specialty just like surgery, paediatrics or obstetrics.

“Proper communication is fundamental for a prompt and accurate diagnosis.”

The College believes all doctors should be vocationally registered or on an educational pathway towards it.


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