Taylor, F., Combes, G., Hare, J.
BACKGROUND: Many patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) need and want improved emotional and psychological support. Explicit attention to patients’ emotional issues during consultations can help, yet renal consultants rarely address emotional problems. This qualitative study aimed to evaluate whether two different low-cost interventions could individually enable consultants to talk with patients about their emotional concerns during routine outpatient consultations. METHOD: One intervention involved patients using a Patient Issues Sheet to identify two to three issues they would like to talk about in their consultation and the second involved consultants asking patients a direct question about their emotional feelings. Consultants were trained to handle any emotional issues raised. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with five consultants and 36 ESRD patients from two UK renal units. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed using the constant comparative method. RESULTS: Although consultants and patients tended to use the two interventions in different ways, they expressed generally positive views about how helpful the interventions were in promoting discussion of emotional issues. Consultants appreciated the training for facilitating empathetic handling of patients’ emotional disclosures and containment of discussion. Most patients who raised emotional concerns were satisfied with their consultant’s responses, while others were dissuaded from more explicit discussion by their consultant’s concentration on physical considerations. CONCLUSIONS: These qualitative study findings suggest that both interventions are feasible and acceptable and have the potential to help consultants improve emotional and psychological patient care, providing cognitive and behavioural tools to enable discussion of emotional issues during routine outpatient consultations.