Background: The second half of the consultation (explanation and planning) has been described as neglected in communication skills teaching in medical schools, with programmes concentrating on information gathering.
Aims: To identify the extent and ways in which explanation and planning is taught in medical schools in the United Kingdom.
Methods: Questionnaire mailed to consultation teaching leads.
Results: Teaching in explanation and planning occurred in 32/32 medical schools. Teaching commenced in years 1 or 2 in 14/32 and year three onwards in 17/32 medical schools. Teaching took place over one year in 12/32, two years in 13/32, three years in 3/32 and 4 years in 2/32 medical schools. Different teaching methods were used, but most use discussion and rehearsal of skills with a simulated patient (21/32). 20/32 medical schools based their teaching on a published consultation model, with 18/20 using the Calgary Cambridge Guide to the Consultation. 31/32 medical schools examined their students in explanation and planning: formative assessment (3/31) or summative (16/31) or both (9/31).
Conclusions: There is now universal teaching and almost universal assessment of the second half of the consultation in medical schools in the UK. Timing of teaching, educational methods, consultation models and assessment used varies between schools.