In February 2013, the Francis Report outlined what it described as ‘systematic failings’ at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust resulting in the death and suffering of many patients through neglect (in the UK context, hospitals can apply to gain foundation trust status. Foundation trust hospitals are part of the National Health Service (NHS) but are not directed by central government and have greater freedom to decide the way services are delivered. They adhere to core NHS principles of free medical treatment based on need and not the ability to pay.) A lack of compassion, particularly among nursing staff, was identified as one of the contributing factors to poor care. The NHS was founded on the core value of compassion that today is one of six values all NHS staff are expected to demonstrate. Frequently invoked as a means to ensuring good patient care, it is a concept that is contested by a number of writers who argue that such moral emotions are not only unnecessary but dangerous. The purpose of this work is to explore the difference between compassion and care (but not medical treatment) in the context of the NHS. The paper draws on the work of Anca Gheaus, who argues there is a distinction to be made between the two and that while it is possible to be compassionate towards everybody, the ability to care, is limited to fewer people and is a more intense and engaged activity. Regarded as the founding myth of the NHS, the work also draws on the parable of the Good Samaritan to make the distinction between the two concepts more visible, and argues the roles played by the Good Samaritan and the innkeeper, remain relevant to the workings of today’s healthcare system. It also reflects on the need for kindness within the system.
Part of the book: Bioethical Issues in Healthcare