Blog: The SAGE & THYME story from TRUSTECH’s perspective

SAGE & THYME training is the most widely run communications skills training programme in the NHS. It was designed to train staff how to listen and respond to patients or carers who are distressed or concerned.

  • It is currently used in around 20% of NHS Trusts in England.
  • Over 1,000 people have been trained as SAGE & THYME facilitators.
  • Approximately 90,000 health and social care staff are estimated to have attended a SAGE & THYME foundation level workshop.
  • 10 publications and at least 8 independent evaluations have recommended the programme.
  • 60 organisations (including NHS Trusts, clinical commissioning groups, hospices, charities, universities and councils) are currently running foundation level workshop training.

But where did it all start? Developed at University Hospital of South Manchester (UHSM), TRUSTECH came across the SAGE & THYME training model over nine years ago. After meeting with the workshop developer, Mike Connolly, TRUSTECH proceeded to assess whether the model could be disseminated freely throughout the NHS or commercialised. After conducting market research, TRUSTECH confirmed that:

• There was a clear need for the training.
• There were no competing products.
• It would need to be rolled out to others via a ‘teach-the-teacher’ approach.
• Evidence was required on the effectiveness of the training before it could be sold to others.

UHSM was then awarded a £25,000 TRUSTECH Pathfinder Development Fund award to research the impact of the training and collaborate with established communication skills experts from The Christie. In addition, a business case was approved to obtain funding from UHSM and create a SAGE & THYME train-the-trainers course. These funds were also used to trade mark the brand and have delegate packs designed and professionally printed.

Initially, the intention was to focus exclusively on research before disseminating the programme. However, news of the programme quickly spread through word of mouth and demand was so high that the programme was sold to other organisations whilst this research was on-going.

The first SAGE & THYME facilitators outside of UHSM were trained in 2009 and the first licence to run the SAGE & THYME foundation level workshop was sold in early 2010. That year, UHSM successfully published an article on SAGE & THYME in Patient Education and Counseling. The first of many journal publications, this detailed the model, explained how the training workshop was run and provided some initial evaluations of its impact on the workshop participants.

Since then, over 100 licences have been signed with the legal and business advice brought to the project through TRUSTECH and the business has grown rapidly. With TRUSTECH’s advice and guidance, we’ve followed a business plan; established a web site; expanded the team of administrators; provided resources to help customers adopt the training, promoted the model at clinical conferences, published journal articles and delivered webinars. As the evidence behind the SAGE & THYME model continues to grow, we’ve also seen independent reports recommending SAGE & THYME publications in journals and textbooks. We continue to support existing customers with new resources, training and events such as the SAGE & THYME Conference.

So why has SAGE & THYME been so successful? TRUSTECH believes it is because:

• The product is truly innovative and meets a gap in the market.
• The host organisation (UHSM) has been supportive throughout the commercialisation process.
• News of the training spreading has via word of mouth through national nursing networks.
• The main inventor has the enthusiasm, energy and capability to do whatever is needed.
• Research has successfully demonstrated the impact SAGE & THYME has on communications skills.
• TRUSTECH has provided the project management and business support needed to create a viable and successful product.

For more information about SAGE & THYME, visit:

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