University Hospital of South Manchester



The SAGE & THYME model and foundation level workshop was developed by members of staff at University Hospital of South Manchester NHS Foundation Trust (UHSM) and a patient in 2006, to teach the core skills of dealing with people in distress.

It was originally developed to meet the level 1 skills requirement described in the 2004 NICE guidance on ‘Improving Supportive and Palliative Care for Adults with Cancer’, although the principles are generic and can be used with anyone in distress.  

The level 1 guidance states that all health and social care staff should be able to:

  • recognise psychological distress
  • avoid causing psychological harm
  • communicate honestly and compassionately
  • know when they have reached the boundary of their competence.

The SAGE and THYME foundation level workshop reminds staff how to listen and how to respond in a way which empowers the patient.  It discourages staff from ‘fixing’ and demonstrates how to work with the patient’s own ideas first.  The training is based on research findings on effective communication skills.

The 3 hour workshop, run by 3 facilitators, teaches up to 30 delegates how to use a structured approach to getting into and out of a conversation with someone who is upset or has concerns, whilst providing basic psychological support.  The workshop uses a mix of small group work, lectures and rehearsals.

The SAGE & THYME model can be taught to any member of staff (e.g. healthcare assistants, nurses, allied health professionals, doctors, administrators, students, volunteers) in contact with distressed people (not just patients) and in any setting (e.g. hospital, patient’s home, nursing home, hospice, social care).

The workshop is evidence based: analysis from 412 participants suggests that the workshops had a significant positive effect on self-confidence (p < 0.0005), self-perception of competence (p < 0.0005) and willingness to explore the emotional concerns of patients (p < 0.0005) (Connolly et al, 2010).  Research funded by a TRUSTECH Pathfinder Development Fund award has tested whether the training increases the knowledge and skills of those taught and whether the SAGE & THYME model is used after the training.  The findings were positive and the results have been submitted for publication.

A full description of the model can be found in the following paper:
Connolly M, Perryman J, McKenna Y, Orford J, Thomson L, Shuttleworth J, Cocksedge S. (2010).  SAGE & THYME: A model for training health and social care professionals in patient-focussed support. Patient Education and Counseling; 79: 87-93.

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See NICE guidance

Find out more about the SAGE & THYME model and the benefits

Find out more about running a SAGE & THYME foundation level workshop in your organisation



Basic guide (11 Feb 2013)


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