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HSC CM4: Communication in Health and Social Care

Level: Level 3 Diploma

1.1. Explain the use of communication in health and social care settings.

One of the most important aspects in the delivery of health and social care is communication. It has several uses and is the main tool that connects services users with their care providers. Without sound communication, there is going to be a huge margin of error.

When caring for an individual, there needs to be a sense of mutual trust that goes both ways. It is crucial for the service user to trust their care provider and vice versa. The only way to accomplish this is through communication.

Having the ability to communicate and fully understand is key to having harmonious relationships with those you provide service to as a caregiver. With adequate communication, it will be easy to discern their requirements and yearnings and find ways to sidestep any upsetting conversations and misinterpretations. Apart from this, employing competent communication skills with a service user will make them more likely to follow instructions regarding their general health and well-being.

A service user communication used as a tool to pass information to all relevant parties. This could be families of service users, colleagues, and authorities. This is especially important in relation to confidentiality.

Whether it’s with external organisations, colleagues, individuals or families, the main tool used to broker and maintain partnership working is communication.

1.2 Explain the impact of communication on service delivery outcomes.

As already established, communication plays a crucial role in health and social care. Without effective communication, there is bound to be misunderstandings, errors, and misinformation which might be fatal in a health and social care setting. Service delivery outcomes is heavily dependent on the effectiveness of communications between service users, caregivers, and other stakeholders.

Effective communication that goes both ways has the tendency to foster trust since it gives service users the impression that they are being heard and actually cared for. It has a positive impact on the overall outcome since it encourages cooperation with their healthcare service providers.

Lack of an effective communication system might lead to bitter complaints from services users arising from poor service delivery. This, in turn, might give the organisation a bad reputation and even lead to legal actions in complicated cases arising from fatal outcomes. On the other hand, effective communication often leads to better output and improved functioning.

Effective communication also has a positive impact on partnership working between colleagues and external organisations. It becomes easier to transfer duty and hand over service user’s information without mistakes, setbacks, or interruptions when communication is effectual.

Family members and close contacts of service users often worry the condition of the said individual. In a case where it has become a source of worry, it is important to keep them in the loop, keep them updated, and offer re-assurance where applicable. Without efficient communication, this might lead to a source of frustration for them. However, when information is passed and there is a response on both sides, they have a clearer picture of the situation and have some peace of mind.

In short, adequate communication has a positive impact on service delivery.

2.1. Outline theories of communication.

Although there are several theories and models of communication people have come up with over the years, in the context of health and social care, there are two theories of communication that are most relevant: There are mainly Argyle’s communication cycle and Tuckman’s theory of group development. While the former focus on the cycle a message goes through from inception to the final stage, the latter centres on how communication in a group works.

Argyle’s communication cycle

Argyle believed that communication isn’t just a tool to pass information but a skill that may be learned for effective communication. Based on this theory, an effective communication passes through the following cycle:

  • Occurrence of thought or idea: This is the phase in which you develop a notion or an idea and wish to communicate it to a person or a group of people.
  • Message coded: At this step, the idea or concept is converted into a mode of communication, verbal or non-verbal.
  • Message sent: This is the point where the coded message is passed across to the other party.
  • Message received: In this phase, the other entity at the other end of the communication spectrum receives the message.
  • Message decoded: After the message has been received, it is processed as the recipient tries to make sense of the context.
  • Message Understood: In this phase, the message is considered understood.

Tuckman’s theory of group development

Because of how dynamic a group can be, Tuckman’s theory takes a different approach when compared to the simpler Argyle’s cycle. This theory puts into the consideration how communication within a group usually evolve with the stages listed below:

  • Forming: At this initial stage of group formation, there is bound to be conflicts as the individual members are just starting to get to know one another, getting familiar with their roles, and adjusting to the climate.
  • Storming: In this phase, there isn’t proper cohesion and interrelation yet within the group, but each team member already starts to get a grasp of their functions and obligations.
  • Norming: At this point, things has settled down and started to normalise. Members of the team already have a clear understanding of their obligations and functions.
  • Performing: At this point, the group has already started working towards a common goal and striving to achieve the aim and objective in unison.

2.2. Describe communication and language needs and preferences of individuals.

Depending on the situation and their limiting factors, individuals may need to adopt a form or medium of communication that deviates from the norm. This is why people may have varying language needs and preferences. Some of these are listed below:


The use of signs, symbols, and speech is central to the Makaton method, which was developed to facilitate communication between adults and children of all ages and to supplement and improve spoken language.

Object of reference

Objects of reference are things that stand in for other things, such as people, locations, or events. Children that have trouble communicating might benefit from its use.

Interpreting services

When communication needs to be passed and individuals speak different languages, an interpretation service must be engaged allow the flow of information between the two parties.

Translation service

While this also involve communication using two spoken languages, it is only applicable to written communication. A translation service converts a text written in one language to another that may be understood by the message recipient.

Picture Exchange Communication System

The Picture Exchange Communication System, often known as PECS, is a kind of supplementary and alternative communication method that engages visuals to aid in the development of better communication skills.

Speech and language therapists, technology devices, advocacy services, and other augmentative and alternative means are included in language and communication needs of individuals which is determined by their abilities, limitations, and health or mental conditions.

2.3. Explain factors that influence communication and interactions

For communication and interaction to be considered successful, there has to be fluent exchange of information between the parties involved. However, there are several factors that may affect the flow of information. Some of these are mentioned in the following paragraphs.


With over 7,000 spoken languages available, we live in a very diverse world. One of the most common factors to affect communication is language. Even when two people speak the same language, there might be communication issues when they have different accents or dialects. Apart from this, terminologies specific to a particular profession or group, acronyms, and terms specific to a geolocation might all affect the flow of information in communication.

Medical conditions

Certain medical conditions may have undesirable effect on interactions between individuals. For instance, a dementia patient may be able to fully express themselves as a result of the condition affecting the language processing part of the brain. Aphasia and dysphasia are disorders that impair the region of the brain essential for language processing, and this will ultimately affect communication. Similarly, dyslexia will affect dissemination of written communication in affected individuals.

Varying abilities and disabilities

As individuals, we have varying degrees of abilities and disabilities. While some of these are minor, major ones might greatly impact communication negatively. People with learning disabilities might have issues passing their message across since they may have their own peculiar mode of communication which might not be clear to the other party. Conditions like Autism too might render a message misunderstood in affected individuals.

Personal factors

Personal factors such as feelings, mood, and attitude all contribute to effectiveness of communication. Of course, the way a person assimilates information and responds when they are worried or anxious differs from the feedback they might give when relaxed and in a good mood.


When an individual is under the influence of substances such as alcohol, their communication may become incoherent. Similarly, use of hard drugs that influence the mental state is also a contributing factor.

2.4. Explain how barriers to communication can be overcome.

Communication does not always go as intended due to different barriers that may impair the flow of information. Whether those barriers are environmental, cognitive, sensory, or social, there are always ways to overcome them and create a channel for the flow of information both ways,

When communicating with an individual with sensory impairment such as partial deafness, it is suggested to speak slowly without raising one’s voice in frustration. It is also recommended to communicate under adequate lighting so the individual might pick up facial expressions and gestions as cues.

Noise, lack of privacy, and a generally inconducive environment are all environmental factors that might serve as communication barriers. Overcoming this requires eliminating these factors. For instance, when there is too much noise, shutting the door or simply changing rooms might be an effective way to fix this lapse.

When it comes to social barriers such as cultural or language differences, this might tricky without proper interpersonal skills. Paying attention to these differences, understanding the meaning of certain signs and gestures in other cultures, and generally being more culturally and socially aware is one way to overcome this.

A greater grasp of the information being expressed can be achieved by practicing active listening, paying attention more often than you talk, and asking pertinent questions where necessary.

2.5. Explain how to communicate to meet the needs of others.

Communication is the giving and receiving of information through verbal and/or non-spoken means. As a health and social care worker, communicating to meet the needs of those you are responsible for is a priority. Even when there are obstructions that affect the flow of communication, it is important to resolve this to accomplish effective communication.

Since we are individuals with our specific needs and preferences, as a health and social care professional, it is required to first determine how the service user prefers to communicate before initiating a conversion. Depending on their health condition or other factors, this could be through a spoken language or use of signs and symbols. Without establishing this, it might be impossible to meet the needs of the other party.

Patience is key when communicating with service users. It is important to give enough time for them to assimilate the message and prepare their feedback. When the message is not clear enough, it is better to calmly ask for clarification instead of taking actions based on assumed meanings.

A good knowledge of non-verbal communication will also be needed in a health and social care setting. Sign language, body language, and facial expressions are some of the non-verbal forms of communication one needs to pay attention to fully understand and meet the needs of those under one’s care.

2.6. Explain how to access additional support or services to enable individuals to communicate effectively.

It is possible that, on occasion, it will be required to seek the guidance and help of others in order to be able to communicate more effectively. This might be the case, for instance, when one starts working with a new person at the initial stage or when it is required to have a specialized counsel that is beyond the purview of one’s position.

If you’re not sure how to communicate with someone with a disability, your best bet is to ask your manager, co-workers, or the person’s friends and family for guidance. In some cases, it may be best to seek out other sources of support.

If someone is not able to communicate in the same language as you, it may be required to find someone who can interpret what they are saying in the case of verbal communication or translate what they are saying if it’s written communication. You can find translator and interpreter services on the Internet or through the local directory or authority.

If you or someone you know is having difficulty communicating, a speech and language therapist may be able to help. These therapists can provide treatment and communication skills training to people who have trouble speaking or understanding others. You can get referred to a speech and language therapist through the NHS, or your organization may have its own therapists on staff.

If you or someone you know is having difficulty communicating, a speech and language therapist may be able to help. These therapists can provide treatment and communication skills training to people who have trouble speaking or understanding others. You can get referred to a speech and language therapist through the NHS, or your organization may have its own therapists on staff.

3.1. Explain the meaning of the term confidentiality.

In the simplest terms, confidentiality means respecting other people’s privacy by keeping their information private.

One of the most important responsibilities of a health and social care practitioner is to maintain patient confidentiality. It is a requirement that health care practitioners keep a patient’s personal health-related data private until the patient provides their agreement for the information to be released, which is a requirement that must be met.

Nevertheless, there are occasions when it is required to to give out this information, such as when recommending a patient to a specialist. But generally speaking, one needs to keep such information undisclosed and ensure no sensitive information gets leaked.

There are laws and legislations that protects individual’s private information in health and social care. Breaching these might result in disciplinary actions or even legal actions.

3.2. Summarise legislation, policies, procedures and codes of practice relating to the management of information

Laws, rules, procedures, and standards of practice all exist to ensure that personal information is kept safe. Some of these are summarized below:

The Common Law of Confidentiality

The Common Law of Confidentiality exists to encourage people to seek out help and support without fearing that their privacy will be violated. Although this law is not specifically for health and social care services, they still fall under its jurisdiction. However, there are occasions when a caregiver can override the confidentiality law if it is necessary to protect the client.

The Human Rights Acts 1998

Every individual has the right to privacy and the duty to respect the private and familial affairs of others, as guaranteed by the Human Rights Act of 1998. Individuals are under no compulsion to divulge their personal information. However, if there are dire repercussions for withholding the information, then the law can be bent.

The Care Acts 2014

The purpose of the Care Act of 2014 is to empower caregivers to blow the whistle without fear when they learn of information that is private but might endanger their client or service recipient. The goal here is to ensure people’s autonomy and improve their quality of life.

The Data Protection Act 1998

Sections of the Data Protection Act detail the responsibilities of enterprises, nonprofits, and other groups in regards to the management of personal data. The  Data Protection Act stipulates that any handling of personally identifiable information must be done in a legitimate, fair, and transparent manner.

Codes of practice

What are codes of practice? These are collections of guidelines for how professionals in a given field should conduct themselves. In health and social care, this includes guidelines on how to respect service users’ private information with respect to confidentiality and what to do in specific cases.

Policies and procedures

These are organization-specific guidelines which differ from one organization to the other. However, when it comes to management of service user’s information, there is a uniformity on how confidentiality works.

3.3. Explain the potential tension between maintaining confidentiality and the need to disclose information.

There can be a conflict between keeping someone’s information private and telling others about something that might be a concern. But there are ways to handle this so that both the individual’s privacy and safety are maintained.

Communicating clearly and concisely is a great method to alleviate this strain. It’s crucial that all parties know what’s expected of them and what they can and can’t say when it comes to sharing sensitive information. That includes explaining when it’s acceptable to violate confidentially and what information is permissible to divulge to others. When life or property is immediately in danger is one instance where this could be necessary.

Keeping everyone participating in the process to a high level of accountability and ethical obligation is another strategy for easing this strain. Professionals in the fields of social work and mental health as well as medical doctors and nurses, as well as close relatives and friends, all fall into this category. It is crucial to be aware of the potential ethical and legal ramifications of violating confidentiality while interacting with such people.

Additionally, if a health or social care worker suspects that a colleague is engaging in unethical or illegal behavior, they may be hesitant to come forward due to the fear of retaliation. In this case, confidentiality can act as a barrier to reporting misconduct and ensuring that adequate measures are taken to protect clients.

Therefore, it is essential for health and social care workers to be able to change their perspective and view confidentiality not as an absolute right, but as a privilege that can be taken away if the client’s safety is at risk. It is essential for professionals to learn how to weigh the pros and cons of disclosing confidential information before making a decision. By doing so, they can ensure that they are taking appropriate action in line with their ethical obligations.

4.1. Describe how to ensure the security of data when accessing and storing records.

While storing and retrieving records, it is important to keep confidentiality in mind to prevent data breach. It is important to stick to the policy and procedures in place. As a health and social care worker, you will need to maintain confidentiality and data protection at all times. This means that you cannot share any information about a client with anyone else, unless you have their permission to do so. If you do share information without permission, you could face disciplinary action from your employer.

Damage to records must be avoided, and security measures must be duly observed.

As for computer records, passwords must be kept confidential, and only authorized personnel must have access to them. Although they may be complex, it is important to avoid writing them down as they may end up in someone else’s hand.

Keeping retrieved service users’ information on personal devices should also be avoided.

It is also recommended to use alphanumeric characters in passwords and change them regularly.

In order to keep data confidential, it is important to have a good understanding of the Data Protection Act. The act sets out strict rules about how personal data must be collected, used and stored. As a health and social care worker, you will need to make sure that you comply with the act at all times.

4.2. Describe how to ensure the security of data when sharing information.

Sharing information must be on a “need-to-know” basis. This means that patients or service users’ information must only be share with individuals who are required to know with consideration to established policies. Members of the staff are also required not to share client’s information with other colleagues. This means that if a staff member learns something about a client during the course of data access and retrieval, they are not allowed to share this information with anyone else on the staff. This rule is in place to protect the privacy of the clients and to ensure that their information is not shared without their consent

Information sharing must also be to the benefit of the service user. This means that the sharing of information must be done in a way that is beneficial to the person who the information is about. For example, if a service user is receiving treatment for a mental health issue, the staff treating them would need to share information with other members of the mental health team in order to provide the best possible care. However, the staff would not be allowed to share this information with anyone outside of the team, unless the service user gave their consent.

Also, when sharing data, if leaving out data such as date of birth, gender and other data that could identify a person is of no consequence to the expected outcome, they should not be included. This is especially important when sharing data with third-parties, as they may not have the same privacy obligations as the original data holder. This is to protect the privacy of individuals whose data is being shared.

In addition, when sharing information verbally over the phone or face to face, it must be done in an environment that guarantees privacy and security of the information being shared.

4.3. Explain how to maintain records.

It is important to get into the habit of using accurate and objective patient information in order to maintain a consistent level of care. This type of information allows clinicians to make well-informed decisions about treatments and diagnoses. Unambiguous patient information is also crucial in ensuring efficient and effective communication between healthcare professionals.

Be sure to record the observations you sensed correctly without stating them as absolute facts. These should go with phrases such as “I heard”, “I saw,” and so one. You should use quotation marks to note when someone has said something to you verbatim. This allows for an accurate record of the conversation.

Make sure there is a good reason along with verifiable evidence for any recorded decision. Ensure notes are accurately dated, timed, and signed, with the name printed alongside the entry (initials should be avoided)

You should take notes soon after an event happens, and by law you have to do it within 24 hours. Be clear about any changes or additions you make later.

Be sure to write in clear writing that is free of jargon, empty phrases, speculation that does not matter, and opinions that could be seen as offensive.


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