2014-15: Compassion in Healthcare


compassion in healthcare joshua hordern

'Compassion in Healthcare'


Knowledge Exchange Fellow:
Professor Joshua Hordern   |   Faculty of Theology and Religion   |   University of Oxford

Partner Organisation:
The Royal Society of Medicine, Open Section



Initially funded by a TORCH Knowledge Exchange Fellowship, Professor Joshua Hordern has been engaging in knowledge exchange activities with a range of external partners on the theme of ‘healthcare and compassion’ since 2014.

Professor Hordern’s research has drawn on theological and philosophical sources such as Aristotelian Thought and Christian Ethics to explore the meaning and practice of compassion. Subsequent knowledge exchange activities have allowed him to engage with a range of external partners to explore what this analysis can contribute to addressing some of the challenges of modern healthcare.

Patients, staff and the wider public are usually very aware of the importance of maintaining compassion. But the health system operates in the context of an ageing and expanding population, increasing potential treatments, and limited funding to set against ever increasing demand. This context can erode the compassion of individual staff, patients and carers, and even healthcare institutions, and lead to lower staff resilience, poorer health outcomes, and a rise in complaints and litigation.

Professor Hordern’s wide ranging partnerships with organisations such as the Royal Society of Medicine, the Royal College of Physicians, and Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, as well as many other academic and clinical bodies, have allowed him to explore what consideration of compassion – and values such as integrity, trust and respect – can bring to healthcare challenges. For example:

  • Compassionate Excellence: a workshop series co-designed with departments of Oxford University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is exploring what the Trust’s strategic objective of ‘delivering compassionate excellence’ means for patients and healthcare staff, and helping participants to identify policy and practice changes that can improve services and strengthen compassionate excellence.
       -For a report on the Obstetrics and Gynaecology Compassion workshops click HERE. For a report on the Haematology Compassion workshops click HERE.
  • Advancing Medical Professionalism: Co-authored with the Royal College of Physicians, the Advancing Medical Professionalism (AMP) report consulted with a range of medical bodies, patients, academics, and practitioners to explore the professional skills, values and attributes essential to the modern doctor. Professor Hordern and colleagues are now working with partners to embed the approaches recommended by AMP in medical training, continuing professional development, and wider medical policy and practice.
         - Download the full report HERE and the summary report HERE.
  • The promise of precision: A series of knowledge exchange workshops (2016-8) with academic researchers, clinical experts, and patient organisations explored the hype and expectation around so-called ‘precision medicine’. Precision Medicine uses targeted therapy, based on the individual patient’s precise genetic diagnosis, to deliver more personalised and effective treatment. But what happens to patients who find that there is no appropriate treatment for them? And how do medical staff best communicate the reality of precision medicine to patients?

For more information about Professor Hordern’s work on healthcare and compassion, please see the Oxford Healthcare Values Partnership website.

Professor Hordern acknowledges support of the Wellcome Trust, the Arts & Humanities Research Council, and the Higher Education Innovation Fund.



Past Events