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Kings Fund boss slams incompassionate NHS

The chief executive of health think-tank the King's Fund believes today's NHS staff are less compassionate towards patients than in the past.

Niall DicksonNiall Dickson, right, who is a former BBC health correspondent told Radio 4's Today programme: 'I have very little doubt that we've seen a deterioration in the level of compassion that is shown by staff to patients.

'It's to do with staff facing very difficult situations - because patients are sicker and hospital stays are shorter - rather than them all turning into nasty people. If we can't get compassion into our healthcare, the system is failing. It's as fundamental as that.'

Dickson blamed work pressures, shorter stays in hospital and the greater complexity of medical challenges for staff behaving in a less compassionate way. 'The board of every hospital should be looking at this as one of their top priorities,' he said. 'What is it like for someone who's coming in to be treated, and how can we improve that experience?'

The draft constitution of the NHS identifies compassion as one of the six values of the service. The constitution says: 'We (NHS staff) find the time to listen and talk when it is needed, make the effort to understand, and get on and do the small things that mean so much - not because we are asked to but because we care.'

Dickson was appearing on the radio to promote a project the King's Fund is piloting in a number of hospitals to try to encourage staff to focus on being compassionate. Under the so-called Schwartz round scheme, staff from different disciplines will get together once a month to discuss areas where they have experienced difficulties.

Is Niall Dickson right?

He's certainly tarring a lot of people with this particular brush. Some 1.3 million people work for the NHS making it is one of the biggest employers in the world — third or fifth biggest depending how the numbers are counted. Only the Chinese Army and Indian Railways are clearly bigger organisations in terms of staff numbers.

What do you think? And will the Shwartz round help?

Page created on December 30th, 2008

Page updated on December 1st, 2009