A city hospital is appealing for more patients to help trainee doctors hone their diagnostic skills and bedside manner.

Students at the School of Medicine at the University of Leeds spend time on placement at Bradford Royal Infirmary.

In the early stages of their five-year course, students observe wards before progressing to working with patients.

Second-year students mainly work with realistic dummies that breathe, blink, talk and even give birth.

But those in the third year deal more with real patients who give them feedback.

The volunteers are crucial in helping trainee doctors understand how they can make people feel more comfortable when discussing their ailments.

Clinical-education lead Sharon Walker said: “We can see how they treat the patients, how they communicate, how they make sense of patients and respect them and how they show confidence in them.”

Mrs Walker said asking patients to spend time with trainees was also important because of the NHS’ focus on getting patients discharged to receive care in the community.

Using real patients also meant trainees were more likely to come across complex cases where people have more than one condition.

“It’s also about them coming across different social problems, different backgrounds and languages,” Mrs Walker said.

Students see a volunteer in groups of four and one will speak to them while the others observe and give feedback with the patient.

There are about 100 patient volunteers but more are wanted to extend the work.

Mrs Walker said: “Everything that’s been coming out over the last few years is that patients are fundamental in health care. It should be a partnership [between patient and doctor] and I think we do see that more.”

And volunteers do help doctors to develop that relationship, Mrs Walker said.

“You can see the difference in the third-year students and the younger ones. It’s very difficult to talk to patients. You can see some of them are loath to ask questions because they don’t really know what to ask or what they’re looking for. But you see that change as they get more confidence.”

  • To volunteer, e-mail sharon.walker@bthft.nhs.uk or call (01274) 382560. Volunteers need to live in the Bradford area.