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Prince of Wales calls for more NHS compassion

The Prince of Wales has called on the medical profession to deliver more compassionate care for NHS patients.

Writing in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, the Prince calls for doctors to receive more medical education and training focused on empathic and compassionate care.

He also called on society to embrace a broader and more complex concept of health – describing a vision of health that includes the physical and social environment, education, agriculture and architecture.

Emphasising that his point is not to confront accepted medical wisdom, he encouraged a wider perspective on health. Rather than simply treating the symptoms of disease, the Prince advocates a health service that puts patients at the heart of the process by incorporating the core human elements of mind, body and spirit. Explaining that symptoms may often be a metaphor for underlying disease and unhappiness, he calls for a scientific and therapeutic approach that understands, values and uses patient perspective and belief rather than seeking to exclude them.

Reflecting on the need to restore urgently a climate of care and compassion at the heart of our health services, the Prince describes how health professionals need to be equipped with the skills and desire to listen and honour what is being said – and not said – by patients. In developing a healing empathy HRH believes that patients will be helped to find their own particular path towards better health.

The Prince said: “It is particularly surprising so many appear to think there is a gap here, when we are told those so-called ‘soft skills’ of caring can have a significant impact on the quality and pace of recovery among patients.

“This inevitably raises the question: ‘Are we doing enough to ensure there is sufficient empathy and compassion instilled throughout training in medical schools and in later hospital training?’

“Should we not, perhaps, be doing more to enhance the length of contact and continuity, when it comes to relationships between professionals and patients? It appears to many…that our capacity for providing ‘the human touch’ has steadily decreased as science and technology have improved.”

Turning to the need to tackle deep-seated problems in alienated and uncaring communities, The Prince describes the work of several of his charities in Burnley, where health inequalities have lowered life expectancy to among the worst levels in the country. Improvements to health, the built and natural environment, the arts, education and business will, he believes, lead to improvements not only in health and other inequalities, but also in the overall cost-efficiency and effectiveness of local services.

The Prince concludes by urging clinicians to emphasise the value of caring, continuing relationships and for society to adopt a more holistic approach to health and disease that maximises the potential of the physical and social environment so that healing and better health can thrive.

Kamran Abbasi, editor of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, said: “The Prince of Wales is a prominent and influential voice. When he sets out his vision for health, something he clearly thinks deeply about, speaking directly to medical professionals is the best way of allowing a constructive debate to flourish.”

Meanwhile, the Sunday Telegraph has reported poor standards of care at the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch. Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has said he is “disgusted and appalled” at accounts of patient neglect.

The mistreatment was exposed after the families of patients took legal action. The Worcestershire Acute Hospital Trust is to pay out a total of £410,000 in compensation. The newspaper says the health trust concerned is writing to 38 families and is to admit its failings in each case.

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3 Responses to “Prince of Wales calls for more NHS compassion”

  1. Malcolm Morrison says:

    Well said, Prince Charles! He is, of course, only saying what every doctor SHOULD know, and every patient DOES know – that ‘continuity of care’ is important. Patients like to talk of THEIR doctor; and doctors SHOULD talk of THEIR patients.

    Sadly, this is something that the bean-counting accountants, and managers who can only conceive of ‘systems’ and ‘care pathways’, cannot understand. So, doctors, now backed by a ‘Royal Warrant’, must teach them!

    Medicine has always been an ‘art’ as well as a ‘science’. In recent times too much emphasis has been given to the science; and not enough to the art. There use to be a song “T’aint what you do, it’s the way that you do it; T’aint what you say, it’s the way that you say it” that finished with “Let’s get the whole thing right”. Maybe the profession needs a little ‘music therapy’?!

  2. Brambo says:

    What does this uber-privileged, mystical fool know about the NHS anyway? All of the cases described above are historical events and have been addressed accordingly; the real issues are woeful understaffing, increasing workloads, unsustainable occupancy rates of a diminishing number of beds, the year-on-year cuts, haemorrhage of management talent and an orchestrated media attack on the NHS at the behest of their asset-stripping masters. The heir to the throne should take a leaf out of his mother’s book and keep his ill-informed views to himself.

  3. Malcolm Morrison says:

    I suspect that Prince Charles knows as much, if not more, about ‘care and compassion’ as the Secretary of State for Health! Certainly my limited experience has shown that members of the Royal Family are far better ‘briefed’ than politicians when making a visit.

    Of course ‘Brambo’ is right about the pressures of the present NHS; but this is about BASIC STANDARDS OF CARE. If doctors and nurses cannot provide this, then it is time to ‘call a halt’ and TELL management that it is NOT SAFE to admit patients to such circumstances.

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