RealTalk end-of-life training resources making a difference to patients and families

Categories: Care and Education.

Patients and their family members are benefitting from more open and honest conversations around end of life care, thanks to a range of enhanced communication resources and training available to health and social care practitioners.

‘RealTalk’ was designed to help increase practitioners’ skills and confidence in handling important and sensitive conversations with patients and their loved ones.

The RealTalk resources, developed at Loughborough University, comprise a series of training modules that incorporate audio and video clips of real-life consultations and evidence from cutting-edge observational communication science. Training modules include empathy, asking questions about pain, discussing prognosis, and bereavement support.

Thanks to a recent licencing agreement, the resources are now managed and disseminated by Treetops Hospice, which provides end-of-life nursing care and counselling support across Derby, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.

Sharan Harris-Christensen is the Manager of the Virtual Education Centre in Palliative and End of Life Care (PEOLC) and Communication Skills for Royal Derby Hospital and Treetops Hospice. She explained the impact of the resources:

“Having evidence from real consultations enhances teaching some of the complexities that healthcare practitioners face in their conversations with patients and their companions. At the heart of RealTalk, is the promotion of confidence and compassionate care.

“We are very pleased that Loughborough University chose Treetops Hospice to host the RealTalk resources and deliver the operational aspects for the direct evidence base of RealTalk.

“This is the next step for sharing the training resources, demonstrating the positive impact of the nuances of compassionate conversations, and enhancing the confidence of clinical practitioners across the UK.

“It has a significant positive impact on the progression of tender conversations in advance care planning and end-of-life care from conversation analysis research.”

RealTalk was established in 2015. It originated from research by Professor Ruth Parry from Loughborough University, that identified a need for a novel, evidence-based approach to communication training resources in healthcare.

RealTalk was developed and managed at Loughborough University for several years, thanks to funding from the Health Foundation, the National Institute for Health and Care Research, and Loughborough University Enterprise Projects Group.

With this funding coming to an end, moving the licence from Loughborough University to Treetops Hospice has ensured RealTalk’s future sustainability.

RealTalk project lead, Dr Marco Pino, from Loughborough University said:

“Timely conversations about end of life care are crucial because patients have the chance to discuss and consider all the options and choices available to them.

“Our hope is that the further spread and embedding of RealTalk with Treetops Hospice will help reshape ways of thinking about and designing communication skills training. This, ultimately, makes a big difference to the care of patients and their families.”

Though Treetops Hospice will be responsible for the operational management of RealTalk, Loughborough University academics will still be involved in the project. They will work to expand its underpinning evidence, generate new training modules, and gather evidence of the impact of the RealTalk resources.

Practitioners looking for more information on RealTalk and wishing to check their eligibility to become a RealTalk facilitator should email, call 0115 9491264 or head to


About Treetops Hospice

Treetops Hospice, the leading end-of-life care charity in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, provides nursing care and emotional support for adults with life-limiting conditions, and their families.

The charity provides support from diagnosis onwards for patients with conditions such as cancer, motor neurone disease and heart and respiratory conditions.

Founded in 1983, Treetops supports thousands of local people – and their families – through the most difficult time of their lives. Last year, our team of Hospice at Home nurses provided over 20,000 hours of care to terminally-ill patients, working day and night to give much-needed support.

We have a team of bereavement counsellors who provide over 4,500 counselling sessions – more than 900 of them to children and young people. Wellbeing team members provide valuable information and support to those who need it.

Treetops are lucky to have over 400 amazing volunteers who help to keep the hospice running smoothly.

Treetops is doing all it can to continue to support those in most need and welcomes donations to ensure the future of the hospice and its services:

A counselling session for a bereaved child costs £34.50. An overnight Hospice at Home nursing shift for a patient at the end of life costs £108.

Treetops Hospice, Derby Road, Risley, Derbyshire, DE72 3SS

0115 949 1264 |

Registered Charity Number 519540


About Loughborough University

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2022 QS World University Rankings – the sixth year running – and University of the Year for Sport by The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2022.

Loughborough is ranked 7th in The UK Complete University Guide 2023, and 10th in both the Guardian University League Table 2022 and the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2022.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’, and in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 over 90% of its research was rated as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally-excellent’. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen’s Anniversary Prizes.

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.


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