Open Access Open Badges Research article

National survey of clinical communication assessment in medical education in the United Kingdom (UK)

Anita Laidlaw1*, Helen Salisbury2, Eva M Doherty3, Connie Wiskin4 and on behalf of the UK Council for Clinical Communication in Undergraduate Medical Education

Author Affiliations

1 Medical School, University of St Andrews, Medical and Biological Sciences building, North Haugh, St Andrews, Fife KY16 9TF, Scotland

2 Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford, Oxford, England

3 National Surgical Training Centre, The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Dublin, Ireland

4 College of Medical and Dental Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, England

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BMC Medical Education 2014, 14:10  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-14-10

Published: 13 January 2014



All medical schools in the UK are required to be able to provide evidence of competence in clinical communication in their graduates. This is usually provided by summative assessment of clinical communication, but there is considerable variation in how this is carried out. This study aimed to gain insight into the current assessment of clinical communication in UK medical schools.


The survey was sent via e-mail to communication leads who then were asked to consult with all staff within their medical school involved in the assessment of communication.


Results were obtained from 27 out of 33 schools (response rate 82%) and a total of 34 courses. The average number of assessments per year was 2.4 (minimum 0, maximum 10). The Objective Structured Clinical Exam (OSCE) was the most commonly used method of assessment (53%). Other assessments included MCQ and workplace based assessments. Only nine courses used a single method of assessment. Issues raised included, logistics and costs of assessing mainly by OSCE, the robustness and reliability of such exams and integration with other clinical skills.


It is encouraging that a variety of assessment methods are being used within UK medical schools and that these methods target different components of clinical communication skills acquisition.

Clinical communication; Assessment; Survey