Communicating a Diagnosis

Communicating a difficult diagnosis can be distressing for both the health professional and the patient.

Ways to help minimise the distress for the patient include:

·         Allow adequate time and ensure privacy

·         Let the patient decide how much they want to know

·         Tell the patient and carer separately if they wish

·         Encourage expressions of feelings

·         Break the news in stages over several consultations

·         Assess patients’ understanding frequently

·         Be aware that both patients and carers may suffer negative thoughts or anxiety after hearing the diagnosis

When communicating with people (particularly those with cognitive impairment), you should work to instil feelings of trust, confidence and respect and ensure that the patient and family have understood what has been said.