Body Politic

You can’t mandate compassion

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e8509 (Published 18 December 2012)
Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e8509

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  1. Nigel Hawkes, freelance journalist, London
  1. nigel.hawkes1{at}btinternet.com

Does a commitment to caring set the tone for Jeremy Hunt’s entire term as health secretary?

He’s said it twice, so I think it may be worth listening. In his mandate to the NHS Commissioning Board, the health secretary for England, Jeremy Hunt, indicated that he wanted to put the care back into caring. Then, in a remarkably sharp speech to the annual conference of the healthcare think tank the King’s Fund at the end of November, he made the same point but with even greater force. “In places that should be devoted to patients, where compassion should be uppermost, we find its very opposite: a coldness, resentment, indifference, even contempt,” he said. I can’t remember a health secretary speaking so plainly for a very long time, if ever.

The chief nurse, Jane Cummings, has since weighed in with her list of C words, though understandably she didn’t quite call them that. Care, compassion, courage, communication, commitment, and competence are the “six Cs” that she wants to see forming the pillars of nursing practice.

Both these interventions got a good press. Cynics may suggest that the Department of Health is simply making ready its defences in advance of the publication of the Francis report into failures of care …

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