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Training Programmes to Enhance Customer Service Skills in Healthcare

The UK Core Skills Training Framework (CSTF) sets out 11 statutory and mandatory training topics for all staff working in health and social care settings. These are:

  • Conflict Resolution
  • Equality, Diversity and Human Rights
  • Fire Safety
  • Health, Safety and Welfare
  • Infection Prevention and Control – Level 1 – Non-Clinical – Level 2 – Clinical
  • Information Governance and Data Security
  • Moving and Handling – Level 1 – Level 2 – Patient
  • Preventing Radicalisation
  • Resuscitation – Level 1 – Basic Life Support – Level 2 – Adult Basic Life Support – Level 2 – Paediatric Basic Life Support
  • Safeguarding Adults – Level 1 – Level 2 – Level 3
  • Safeguarding Children – Level 1 – Level 2 – Level 3

As the emphasis of health and social care in the UK is patient-centred care, it is perhaps important to expand this framework to include additional specific customer service skills topics. Embracing the concept that patients are in fact consumers of healthcare services has always proved to be a difficult one for health and social care workers and providers; however, it is a crucially important one in order to deliver on the pledge of compassionate, person-centred care.

Appropriate customer service skills training helps instil the essential attitudes, behaviours, skills and knowledge required to deliver safe, person-centred care, and that includes training all staff in topics such as:

  • Communication skills
  • Empathy and compassion awareness
  • Cultural awareness
  • Shared decision-making and person-centred care
  • Employee self-care and welfare

And signposting health and social care professionals to relevant topics for their continual professional development.

In this article we will examine these topics in more detail, and look at how participating in these training programmes plays an essential role in equipping health and social care professionals in all roles, with the skills and competencies required to be able to deliver quality, compassionate person-centred care.

Communication and Empathy Training

Good communication is critical to good quality health and social care. It optimises health outcomes for patients, and ensures that everyone using the service has a positive experience from their very first point of contact right through to their discharge from care.

Effective communication is a key aspect of ensuring that all parties have clear expectations of one another. Clear communication facilitates information exchange between patients and service users, and health and social care professionals. This is particularly important to ensure that health and social care professionals can accurately diagnose, treat and care for individuals in a person-centred way, and that individuals can discuss and make informed decisions about their treatment options, treatment plans and care.

When patients know what to expect, and this is communicated to them in a clear and empathetic manner, they are more likely to feel confident in the care that they are receiving. Clarity and empathy in communication reduces misunderstandings, and miscommunications, which can lead to errors in care or to patient and service user dissatisfaction with the service.

When health and social care staff are looking into training to improve and develop their communication and empathy skills, they should consider communication courses and programmes that include the following elements:

  • Communication style and body language – it is important to remember the impact that these have, not only on patients but also on their friends and families who may be involved in their treatment and care. Also, it is important to recognise the impact that these aspects of communication have on the working relationships with colleagues and other health professionals that health and social care workers may work in partnership with in delivering quality care. Engaging in appropriate communication styles and the use of body language will have an effect on how others, including patients and service users, are willing to work with their health and social care professional(s). Positive body language, for example, maintaining eye contact and nodding, helps establish a connection with patients and service users, making them feel heard and understood, which inspires trust and confidence. It is also important to be able to read non-verbal clues in others, including the emotions they are feeling and the unspoken messages they are sending.
  • Active listening – this involves being attentive and focusing on the speaker, understanding what is being said and reflecting or seeking clarification if anything is unclear. Non-verbal behaviours such as nodding, open body language, and maintaining eye contact signal active listening, making patients and service users, their family and friends, and other colleagues feel that their perspectives, opinions and concerns are being taken seriously.
  • Feedback – this is the process of determining if the message has been properly received. This is particularly important when communicating difficult or complicated information. It is important to clarify the message to confirm that it was received as intended as, on occasion, a person may say one thing, but it carries a different meaning, and/or the receiver hears the message differently than it was intended.
  • Tone – this is important in all verbal and written communication. 38% of the message comes from the tone of voice in communication. Words that may seem neutral can become provoking if spoken with a sarcastic, demeaning or contemptuous tone of voice, causing the listener to feel hurt and disrespected. A soft tone of voice is often interpreted as a lack of confidence, but too loud will be seen as aggressive. Because of the nature of work, health professionals’ tone of voice must remain professional and avoid becoming too informal or overfamiliar.
  • Empathy – this is about emotion, and, in particular, about emotional connection. Empathic communication involves both accepting and allowing different perspectives and emotions in other people, and also sharing empathy with them to enable encouragement and support.

Examples of training programmes include, but are not limited to:

The NHS Making Every Contact Count training programme focuses on how asking questions and listening effectively to people is a vital role.

The NHS Communicating with Empathy training programme aims to promote sensitive and effective communication.

CPD Online College offers online courses that can help to develop communication skills, including but not limited to:

Customer Service in Health and Social Care

Person-Centred Care

Customer Service Skills

Cultural Competence and Diversity Training

Cultural competence and diversity in health and social care means delivering effective, quality care to patients and service users who have diverse beliefs, attitudes, values and backgrounds. It requires understanding the potential impact that cultural and diversity differences can have on healthcare delivery. Diversity not only denotes people in distinctive ethnic and racial groups, but it also refers to meeting the needs of people with disabilities, those from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Cultural competence aims to break down barriers that get in the way of patients and service users receiving the care they need. It also works to ensure improved understanding between patients and service users, and their health and social care providers. Developing skills that improve cross-cultural communication can play an important role in overcoming discrimination and delivering equitable care for all.

Cultural competence significantly impacts patient and service user participation and engagement, promoting respect and improving understanding. It encourages active dialogues which help to correct any misunderstandings and to build trust. Staff who have an awareness of, and respect for, differences create safer, better quality care, and more satisfying experiences for their patients and service users.

When health and social care staff are looking into training to improve and develop their cultural competence and diversity awareness, they should consider courses and programmes that include, but are not limited to, the following elements:

  • Understanding culture and health – culture is a pattern of ideas, customs and behaviours shared by a particular group of people, and the influence of culture on health is vast. It affects perceptions of health, illness and death, beliefs about causes of disease, approaches to health promotion, how illness and pain are experienced and expressed, where, when and how patients seek help, and the types of treatment patients prefer.
  • Understanding and recognising unconscious bias – unconscious bias has a substantial and far-reaching impact on interactions between staff and patients and service users, their friends and families, and between colleagues. Unconscious bias can be particularly evident in situations that require decision-making, which impacts the quality of patients’ and service users’ diagnosis, treatment and care.
  • The legal framework – for equality, diversity and inclusion to really become part of and embedded into a health and social care setting, every member of the team needs to fully understand and be able to apply the relevant legislation, principles and practices.

Examples of training programmes include, but are not limited to:

The NHS Cultural Competence and Cultural Safety programme provides knowledge and understanding of the issues around culture and health, and how this might influence healthcare outcomes.

The NHS Disability Matters programme provides awareness of the issues that affect the everyday lives of disabled children, young people and their families.

NHS Statutory and Mandatory Training programme includes units for equality and diversity.

CPD Online College offers online courses that can help to develop equality, diversity and inclusion understanding, including but not limited to:

Equality and Diversity

LGBTQ+ Awareness

Unconscious Bias


Conflict Resolution and De-Escalation Training

From time to time, in any health or social care setting, patients and service users and/or their friends and/or families, or even colleagues, may display anger or distress. There can be any number of reasons that may contribute to this – unmet expectations, being ignored, indifference, wait times, fear, and drug or alcohol use. Whatever the catalyst, it is important to recognise that an individual’s behaviour is often not directed personally at staff, but at a set of circumstances faced by them.

Dealing with aggrieved or aggressive patients may be infrequent in many healthcare settings, but it can be an everyday occurrence in others. The need for using de-escalation techniques has become more prevalent as violence in healthcare settings increases. Staff need to be prepared to intervene and de-escalate a potentially dangerous or harmful situation should a patient or service user become aggressive or agitated. This is an important aspect of safeguarding others. During potential conflict situations people can show various warning and danger signs. Being aware of these signs and being able to recognise them when entering into situations that are at risk of escalating into confrontational or violent acts is an important skill that all health and social care professionals need to develop.

Dealing with problems, setbacks or dilemmas is part of everyday life in health and social care, and the swift identification and resolution of issues is a key aspect of providing good customer service. It promotes efficiency, increases the quality of care, and helps in decision-making to increase overall patient and service user satisfaction and safety.

One of the primary responsibilities of a health or social care worker is finding and evaluating issues that the individual is facing with their physical health and/or mental wellbeing. They need to be able to recognise changes in behaviour, symptoms or emotional states that are the indicators of the underlying problems. Effective communication is essential for conveying information, gaining a better understanding, and building a positive relationship with the person and/or their friends and families. In communicating there is a need to be open and receptive and to hear all of what is being said. In order to hear the other person, you must actively listen. This demonstrates that you are taking things seriously, showing empathy with their perspective although you may not necessarily agree with it, and ensuring that you reflect back to check understanding.

Often, showing the other person that they are being listened to allows them to let off steam and the situation is defused; however, there will be occasions when the situation escalates. Conflict can arise from differing needs and expectations. It may not always be possible to avoid conflict, so the key is to have effective conflict management skills.

When health and social care staff are looking into training to improve and develop their conflict resolution and de-escalation skills, they should consider courses and programmes that include, but are not limited to, the following elements:

  • Understanding the common causes of conflict – identifying these can help to take steps to prevent conflict from happening in the first place, or enable you to tailor your conflict resolution strategy to fit the situation.
  • Verbally defusing conflict – dialogue and communication are central to conflict management. In many situations people are seeking a resolution to an issue.
  • Situational awareness and determining safety – situational awareness is the ability to perceive and process potential threats in the environment. It is important to maintain high levels of situational awareness in conflict situations to safeguard your own safety and that of others.
  • Evoking emergency response protocols – it is crucial to fully understand the setting’s emergency response protocols and to recognise if the situation is escalating beyond your control, possibly to the point of physical violence.
  • Adverse event reporting – conflict situations, resolutions and other actions should be documented in order that the health or social care setting can monitor, evaluate and further report on occurrences. There is also a potential for lessons to be learnt from reporting.

Examples of training programmes include, but are not limited to:

The NHS Violence Reduction Programme provides healthcare professionals with the knowledge and resources to support violence reduction and improve wellbeing.

The NHS Statutory and Mandatory Training programme includes units for conflict resolution.

CPD Online College offers online courses that can help to develop conflict and anger management understanding, including but not limited to:

Conflict Management

Anger Management Awareness

Complaints Handling

Knife Crime Awareness

Violence at Work

Person-Centred Care and Shared Decision-Making Training

Person-centred care sees people as active partners in, rather than simply passive recipients of, healthcare. This also acknowledges the contribution that families and wider social networks make to both health and the provision of healthcare. The stated goal is to achieve a more holistic care which is respectful, compassionate, dignified and sensitive to the whole person and their needs. It is focused on increasing opportunities and support for people to play a more active role in their own health and healthcare, including people self-managing long-term conditions, sharing treatment decisions, and participating in care planning.

Shared decision-making is a collaborative process that involves a person and their healthcare professional working together to reach a joint decision about tests, treatments, care and care plans. It places equal value on the priorities, values and preferences of the patient, and the expert knowledge of the healthcare professional.

When patients and service users are involved in decisions about their own care and treatment, and have more knowledge and confidence, they have better outcomes, follow appropriate drug treatments, avoid over-treatment, and are less likely to be hospitalised.

When health and social care staff are looking into training to improve and develop their skills in patient-centred care and shared decision-making, they should consider courses and programmes that include, but are not limited to, the following elements:

  • Recognising what person-centred care is and how it affects people receiving care – this involves understanding the many different principles and activities that are incorporated in health and social care and how these are personalised to afford the patient and service user with dignity, compassion and respect in their coordinated care, support or treatment.
  • Facilitating communications – this is ensuring that discussions with the individual about their care include providing sufficient information in a way that the individual fully understands, enabling them to raise any concerns, and to have these addressed satisfactorily, gaining an understanding of what is important to the person, their values and needs, and developing relationships in which health and social care professionals and patients and service users can work together.
  • Shared decision-making – this is a collaborative process through which a health or social care professional supports a patient or service user to reach a decision about a specific course of action, such as deciding on a strategy to manage pain, or deciding upon a treatment plan. The conversation brings together the health or social care professional’s expertise, such as the treatment options, risks and benefits, with the areas that the patient or service user knows best, such as their preferences, personal circumstances, social circumstances, goals, values and beliefs. Shared decision-making ensures that individuals are supported to make decisions that are right for them.

Examples of training programmes include, but are not limited to:

The NHS Person-Centred Approaches programme covers the core transferable behaviours, knowledge and skills for person-centred approaches.

The NHS Shared Decision Making programme provides guidance on what Shared Decision Making (SDM) is and how to implement it in practice.

CPD Online College offers online courses that can help to develop skills for delivering person-centred care and shared decision-making, including but not limited to:

Person-Centred Care

Stress Management and Self-Care Training

It is a carergiver’s responsibility to look after the health, care and wellbeing of the individuals that they care for. To be able to do this effectively they need to take responsibility to look after the health, care and wellbeing of themselves. The health and wellbeing of the workforce is equally as important as that of their patients and end-users, as this has a direct impact on the quality of care delivered, and may increase the risk of health outcomes lowering as a consequence.

Health and social care workers provide invaluable services to individuals and communities, often navigating complex emotional landscapes and challenging situations. Whilst this work is often very satisfying, it can also be stressful and demanding.

High workloads, emotional fatigue, and sometimes insufficient resources are all contributing factors to health and social care workers experiencing work-related stress which, if they do not acknowledge and manage appropriately, can lead to burnout. Self-care and developing resilience are essential to replenish the emotional and physical energy spent on caring for others.

Personal wellbeing among health and social care workers ensures that they can continue to perform their duties effectively and empathetically, focusing on providing quality care for their patients. It is important that they prioritise their own wellbeing, making time for self-care habits such as healthy eating, exercising, quality sleep, and participating in de-stressing activities to manage their stress, and to improve their overall mental and physical wellbeing. They should view this as a necessity of their professionalism.

When health and social care staff are looking into training to improve and develop their skills in stress management and improving their physical and mental wellbeing, they should consider courses and programmes that include, but are not limited to, the following elements:

  • Assertiveness and establishing boundaries – it is vital to know when to say no, and how to disconnect from work mentally and emotionally after hours to prevent compassion fatigue.
  • Mindfulness – practising mindfulness can help support workers to remain anchored in the present moment, reducing stress and preventing burnout. Mindfulness techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises or yoga can help maintain a calm and balanced state of mind. These techniques are easy to learn and enjoyable to participate in.
  • Self-wellbeing – it is important to fully understand the importance that exercise, healthy eating and sleep regimes have on physical and mental health and wellbeing.
  • Managing stress – during stressful times, you might feel as if you simply don’t have time to take a break, let alone practise self-care; however, being able to recognise stressors, and having knowledge of strategies and techniques that you can have in place and use in times of stress, can prevent it becoming unmanageable, and in time developing into burnout. Patients and service users depend upon their health and social care professionals to be calm, empathetic and focused on their care, so it is crucial for caregivers to make time for de-stressing in order to maintain professionalism.
  • Time management – the tools and techniques of time management can help to develop organisation skills. This helps staff to focus better, enables them to be more productive, lowers their stress levels and gives them more time to spend with the people that matter most.
  • Resilience – being resilient helps staff to manage stressful situations and to develop effective strategies to cope with pressure, protecting them from mental ill health, and improves their overall health and wellbeing. It improves confidence and self-belief which helps with being empathetic, and the ability to form positive relationships with others, all of which are crucial to providing quality health and social care.
  • Reflective practice – activities such as journaling can help health and social care staff to process their experiences and emotions, providing clarity and insight. It also provides an opportunity to learn from experiences by analysing what went well, what didn’t go so well and identifying what to change for future practice.

Examples of training programmes include, but are not limited to:

The NHS Introduction to Mindfulness programme increases awareness and understanding of what mindfulness is.

The NHS Physical Activity and Health programme, although aimed at professional use with patients, provides the benefits of physical activity.

The NHS Thinking Differently programme provides the opportunity to think differently about the everyday challenges you may face at work.

CPD Online College offers online courses that can help to develop skills techniques and tools for stress management and self-care, including but not limited to:

Anger Management Awareness

Anxiety Awareness

Depression Awareness

DSE Awareness

Resilience Training

Understanding Stress

Workplace Stress Awareness

Workplace Mental Health

Continuous Professional Development and Feedback

In the context of health and social care service provision, feedback is any information received about customer service performance, whether it is positive or negative, formal or informal, direct or indirect. This feedback can come from various sources, such as patients and service users, their friends and families, other healthcare partners, colleagues and managers, or through self-assessment. Receiving feedback is an essential skill to develop for improving customer service and requires being open to listening and learning from the feedback, even if it is unfavourable or difficult.

Workplace feedback is actually one of the most useful tools for personal and professional development. Receiving and encouraging feedback at work creates a culture of growth and motivation, and can help to create a more caring, empathetic and productive workforce.

Perhaps the biggest impact that feedback has is on personal growth. Receiving feedback gives people confidence, with clear examples of what they are doing well and where they need to develop their skills. This helps them to create effective plans to develop professionally.

Engaging in continuous professional learning and development can help support health and social care professionals to feel competent and confident in their roles, which can reduce stress, increase job satisfaction and help to provide quality care to patients and service users.

When health and social care staff are looking into activities that can contribute to their customer care professional development, they should consider some or all of the courses highlighted above in this article. They may also wish to consider workshops, conferences, e-learning, shadowing, job rotation, mentoring, and more, as CPD activities can take various forms. CPD activities help healthcare professionals remain current in their field and develop their abilities to provide the best care for their patients.

Organisations such as Skills for Care run a variety of events and networks aimed at improving and developing the customer service skills of health and social care staff.

The NHS E-learning for healthcare provides access to free online training resources for NHS healthcare staff.

HC-UK Conferences provides a directory of healthcare events and conferences both virtual and face to face.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council lists events and webinars for CPD.

CPD Online College lists CPD courses offered most suited to your job in health and social care:

care-staff-training-and- feedback


When health and social care providers prioritise customer service, they make sure that their patients and service users are properly taken care of and made to feel supported and valued throughout their treatment and care. Education and training can break down barriers to providing safe, quality care, creating an environment where all staff learn from error, build upon best practice and where patients and service users are at the centre of care, treated with openness and honesty and where staff are trained to focus on patient needs.

Strong customer service skills and continual professional development ensures health and social care staff can provide high-quality, patient-centred care for their patients and service users, and handle the challenges of their role with confidence. However, it is not just the patient or service user who requires strong customer service in the health and social care sector. Family members, friends, caregivers and other colleagues should also be considered as customers and treated with care, empathy, honesty and respect.

Health and social care providers should focus on training staff in their workforce in subject areas that promote effective:

  • Communication
  • Empathy
  • Cultural competence
  • Conflict resolution
  • Patient-centred care
  • Stress management
  • Continuous learning and development

It is crucially important in health and social care settings to ensure the safety, care, wellbeing and outcomes of people both receiving and giving care, and to maintain high standards of care quality and patient and service user satisfaction. This training and development should be viewed as an investment to be prioritised by both employers and their staff.

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About the author

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Liz Wright

Liz has worked with CPD Online College since August 2020, she manages content production, as well as planning and delegating tasks. Liz works closely with Freelance Writers - Voice Artists - Companies and individuals to create the most appropriate and relevant content as well as also using and managing SEO. Outside of work Liz loves art, painting and spending time with family and friends.

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