BMJ Qual Saf 21:84-88 doi:10.1136/bmjqs-2011-000297
  • Quality improvement report

A ‘Communication and Patient Safety’ training programme for all healthcare staff: can it make a difference?

  1. Michael Daly
  1. Clinical Governance Unit, Metro South District, Queensland Health, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Peter Lee, Clinical Governance Unit, Level 1 Melbourne St Office, Queensland Health, PO Box 48, Brisbane, Queensland 4001, Australia; peter_lee{at}
  1. Contributors Peter Lee, as lead author, takes responsibility for the integrity of the work as a whole from inception to published article. Kellie Allen, the second author, made substantial contributions to the concept, the design and the data acquisition and interpretation for our programme, as well as providing critical review of the article. Michael Daly, the third author, also made substantial contributions to the concept and design of the programme, the interpretation of the data, and provided significant critical review of the article. All three authors then gave final approval of the version to be published.

  • Accepted 3 October 2011
  • Published Online First 18 November 2011


Communication breakdown is a factor contributing to most cases of patient harm, and this harm continues to occur at unacceptable levels. Responding to this evidence, the Metro South District of Queensland Health (Australia) has developed a communication skills training programme titled ‘Communication and Patient Safety’. The three modules, each lasting 3½ h, cover both staff-to-patient and staff-to-staff communication issues, and an unusual feature is that clinical and non-clinical staff attend together. Following positive evaluation data from our initial pilot programme (involving 350 staff in a single hospital), the programme was expanded to all five hospitals in the district, and has now been completed by over 3000 staff. The results show that despite the significant time commitment, participants find the courses useful and relevant (Kirkpatrick level 1), they learn and retain new material (level 2), and they report changes in behaviour at individual, team and facility levels (level 3). Although it remains a challenge to obtain quantitative data showing that training such as this directly improves patient safety (level 4), our qualitative and informal feedback indicates that participants and their managers perceive clear improvements in the ‘communication culture’ after a workplace team has attended the courses. Improving ‘communication for safety’ in healthcare is a worldwide imperative, and other healthcare jurisdictions should be able to obtain similar results to ours if they develop and support interactive, non-didactic training in communication skills.


  • Funding Entirely funded by The State of Queensland (Queensland Health).

  • Competing interests All authors have completed the Unified Competing Interest form at (available on request from the corresponding author) and declare that (1) No financial support has been received for the submitted work other than from their employer; (2) PL has undertaken training for the ErroMed Group in the previous 3 years, otherwise there are no relationships with commercial entities that might have an interest in the submitted work; (3) their spouses, partners, or children have no financial relationships that may be relevant to the submitted work; and (4) There are no non-financial interests that may be relevant to the submitted work.

  • Ethics approval Ethics approval was provided by Princess Alexandra Hospital (Brisbane) Human Research Ethics Committee, ref 2008/137.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement Data available on request from the corresponding author.

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