Hurst-Brown L, Keens ALondon: Forum Consultancy; 1990

Pincock S Poor communication lies at heart of NHS complaints, says ombudsman. BMJ. 2004; 328

Communication is a two-way street

02 May 2014
Volume 22 · Issue 5

It is well known that effective communication encompasses both verbal and non-verbal methods. Hurst-Brown and Keens (1990) identified eight areas that are required in order to be able to successfully communicate: hearing, sight, memory, attention, turn-taking, eye contact, self-awareness and group awareness.

Early on and throughout pregnancy, communication between midwives and women is key. It can help to build bonds and trust at a very vulnerable time in a woman's life. Unfortunately, midwives also have to be adept at delivering bad news as well as good news. In this issue, Richard Lyus and colleagues discuss termination of pregnancy for fetal abnormality (page 332). In addition to discussing the medical advice, Lyus et al also relay the importance of emotional aftercare for the mother.

Any significant impairment in one or more of the eight ‘skills’ will affect communication. Previous discussion of a birth plan provides the woman a chance to ask questions and find out more about what happens in labour and to make informed decisions on her birth. During labour, women may not be able to listen or form coherent sentences due to pain, therefore understanding her previous birth requests and providing non-verbal communication is essential. The use of eye contact or a gentle touch may help to calm the woman at a difficult time in the birth process.

Poor communication lies at the heart of NHS complaints (Pinock, 2004). Maternity claims represent the highest value and second highest number of clinical negligence claims reported to the NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA) (NHSLA, 2012). Although the majority of claims are not due to poor communication, effective communication can help to allay some fears and misunderstandings that lead to such claims. As part of our supervision series, Rebekah Joy Stone, a service user, discusses her disappointing birth outcome and the role supervisory support can play on birth outcomes (page 353). We hope midwives will be able to learn from her experience and adjust their practice accordingly.

Communication is not linear, although the British Journal of Midwifery is here to be your voice, we are also here to listen. We want to know the topics that interest you so we can make this journal, your journal and help to enhance your practice so you can provide women with the best evidence-based care. At the end of the day, it is the health of the mother and baby that are the number one priority.