A YORKSHIRE-based company is helping to make the NHS more efficient by using actors to improve doctors’ listening skills.
PEEL Entertainment is holding workshops to encourage student medical staff to display greater empathy when questioning patients about their symptoms.
The students are being trained to pick up verbal and non-verbal signals from patients which may give clues about their illness.
It’s hoped this approach will speed up diagnosis and save lives and money.
Susannah Daley, the owner and managing director of PEEL, said: “Our actors take on the role of a patient. They are trained in a method known as the Calgary Cambridge model, which has been developed by the universities of Calgary and Cambridge.
“It is used to allow the simulated patients to release information to the student doctor in the same way that a real patient might; which is not necessarily in a straightforward medical manner. The student doctor is trained to ask questions to elicit information that the simulated patient has been given in the scenario.
“The actors are also trained to give feedback to the student doctors about the experience.”
Ms Daley said she hoped it would break down communication barriers between medical staff and patients.
She added: “When students come to university to train to be a doctor or a dentist, they are usually incredibly bright and have spent their whole life learning how to supply answers in the correct manner. In real life, we know that human beings don’t respond like that. They are culturally and socially diverse.
“Our training tries and gives these doctors a voice and helps them to learn to communicate with people by asking the right questions, and also to look for body language or the use of language, that should lead to further enquiries.”
The PEEL Entertainment Group, which was formed in 1993, has three divisions; Peel Talent, a specialist agency placing performers in creative roles on and off the stage, Peel Roleplay, which delivers actor-based training for the BBC and NHS and Peel Interactive, a digital agency producing creative experiences using augmented reality.
PEEL Interactive’s team works with clients on projects such as three dimensional experiences, films, illustration and animation, games and digital app design. It recently digitally recreated Europe’s largest peat landscape for the RSPB and it also created a 360 degree dome installation for Drax Power Station in North Yorkshire.
The £9.5m turnover company has 45 full time staff based in Broughton, near Skipton, and its rehearsal studios in Keighley, and it also uses around 15 regular freelance writers and directors.
Peel Roleplay works with Liverpool University, and the universities of Plymouth, Exeter and Truro.
The roleplay simulated patient programme, which is carried out for PEEL’s client universities, is designed to improve the communication skills of new doctors. according to Susannah Daley, the company’s managing director.
She added: “More accurate information, and a genuine relationship between patient and doctor, should allow the NHS to pinpoint what tests and treatments may be required at GP and specialist level, helping to save money on unnecessary tests or treatments.”