Conference: Compassion Fatigue: Changing Culture in the NHS

26-28 June, Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre, Birmingham

(via Andrew Edgar)

Can the language of compassion capture the moral problems confronted by the NHS, or might it obfuscate and distract us from more subtle and demanding issues?

Through a series of plenary addresses, workshops, panels and shared opportunities for discussion, “Compassion Fatigue” will provide an opportunity to explore the language of compassion, and the impact that it has on the practice of health care provision.

More details below the fold.

In the light of the crisis in the Mid-Staffordshire Trust, the Francis Report and the Secretary of State for Health’s initial response, the language of compassion is becoming increasingly important as a focus for debates over the moral and vocational nature of health care.

While accepting that compassion is important to care and that current debates are at times inspiring and genuinely transformative, the 2013 Think about Health summer conference provides an opportunity to step back and to reflect more critically upon compassion, and the implications of situating compassion as a core professional competence.

The conference is designed explicitly to offer a space for reflection and discussion.  It provides shared opportunities for discussion alongside plenary addresses, workshops, panels, and all in a residential setting chosen to be conducive to thought and debate. 

Key note speakers to include: Dr. Jocelyn Cornwell (Director, The Point of Care programme, The King’s Fund); Dr. Paquita de Zulueta (Honorary Clinical Senior Lecturer at Imperial College, Dept of Primary Care and Public Health; Rev. Dr. Trystan Hughes (Anglican Chaplain, Cardiff University, and author of The Compassion Quest)

Questions to be addressed may include the following:

  • Is the appeal to compassion a recovery of health care’s moral compass, or a symptom of the undermining of the moral foundations of health care provision?
  • What assumptions does the advocacy of compassion make about the moral character and integrity of medical professionals?
  • Is there a disruptive tension between a culture of compassion on the one hand, and a culture of managerialism, with its emphasis on increasingly arduous inspection regimes, on the other?
  • Can the language of compassion capture the moral problems confronted by the NHS, or might it obfuscate and distract us from more subtle and demanding issues?
  • Is there an inevitable tension between personal and vocational nature of compassionate care and the need for universally applicable standards of efficient and effective care?

“Compassion Fatigue” will explore the general fate of moral concepts within health care, not least by exploring the danger that, after an initial burst of enthusiasm and genuinely critical and reflective thinking, they become operationalised into the managerial routines of everyday practice that they were originally designed to temper and remedy.

Workshops will address the politics of compassion; compassion and spirituality; compassion and nursing; compassion and the experience of the patient.

For more information and booking forms visit

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