Intended for healthcare professionals

Views & Reviews Review

Kindness in healthcare: what goes around

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 22 February 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e1171
  1. Iona Heath, president, Royal College of General Practitioners
  1. iona.heath22{at}

Kindness is essential in helping patients to heal, but healthcare professionals need to be treated with kindness too. Unkind though it may be, Iona Heath would force you to read this book

This wonderful book is an urgent plea for kindness as both the driving force and the touchstone of healthcare in the NHS. Anyone who has been seriously ill knows that it is the individual acts of kindness, thoughtfulness, and sensitivity on the part of healthcare staff that make it possible to cope with the panic and indignity of a failing body. Kindness helps healing. Yet, as recurrent scandals unfold, most recently in the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, it is all too clear how quickly the sustaining web of kindness can unravel into neglect and even abuse. Why should this be?

Authors Ballatt and Campling remind us that, “it is easy to forget the appalling nature of some of the jobs carried out by NHS staff day in, day out—the damage, the pain, the mess they encounter, the sheer stench of diseased human flesh and its waste products.” Of course, such forgetfulness is not at all easy …

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