Death-related discussions are not easy. Communication at this time can impact on safe patient care. Patients and families depend greatly on the level of communication skill used by staff. Poor communication can lead to long term emotional damage. Communication relating to death is a core skill for healthcare staff and requires regularly updated training.

A society that is uncomfortable talking about death and dying, can make it hard for health and social care professionals to have open and sensitive conversations with patients and carers.

Lack of time and space to come to terms with the deaths of patients can have a negative impact on clinicians or can result in a relative ‘de-sensitisation’ to death. It is important to take time to deal with the deaths you may witness through reflection and debrief with colleagues. Bereavement Co-ordinators and Spiritual Care Leads in Scottish Health Boards provide an important resource for healthcare staff who need to know how to access support and guidance.

View GMC guidance on what to discuss with patients and their families or carers