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The University of Southampton
Health Sciences

Improving compassion and care for older people

Published: 22 October 2014

Researchers at the University of Southampton are launching a study to improve the compassion and care experienced by older people on hospital wards.

The Francis Inquiry reported that many older patients experienced negative and uncaring attitudes and behaviours on wards, resulting in a perceived lack of compassion. Working with Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust and University Hospitals Southampton NHS Foundation Trust (UHS), the University of Southampton has responded to those findings with the introduction and evaluation of a new practice development programme for nurses.

The Creating Learning Environments for Compassionate Care (CLECC) programme aims to promote compassionate care for older hospital patients. Education is often proposed as one solution to the quality problems, but the best approach is not known. Previous research indicates that workplace learning and a focus on ward nursing teams may be most effective, but no research to date has assessed the impact of such programmes on the quality of care. This study, funded by the National Institute for Health Research Health Services and Delivery Research Programme, aims to begin to address this gap.

Dr Jackie Bridges, Associate Professor [for Older People’s and Dementia Care] of Health Sciences at the University is leading the study. She says: “There is widespread public support for the proposal that older patients should consistently experience compassionate care. But too often individual nurses are blamed for a lack of compassion, when in fact, their capacity to be caring may well depend on the conditions they are working in. CLECC moves the focus to that local ward climate, aiming to build supportive working relationships between team members and to support the ward manager in leading the development of a compassionate team. This study aims to put CLECC into practice and do the groundwork needed for a future, larger, study to test that it makes a difference to patients.”

The programme will include manager leadership workshops, a new ‘care maker volunteer’ role, and learning sessions that will include patient feedback. It will be implemented at four wards at Queen Alexandra Hospital, Portsmouth and Southampton General Hospital over a four month period.

Nicky Lucey, Director of Nursing at Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, comments: “We have very dedicated nurses that are passionate about the high quality care they provide and being part of this study will help them to further the high-level service they give to our older patients. Our nurses will be able to put their learning into practice to ensure showing compassion goes hand-in-hand with providing first-class healthcare.”

Rosemary Chable, Associate Director of Nursing for Education and Practice Development at UHS, adds: "We are really pleased to be an active practice partner in this exciting research study.

"The new approaches it will introduce for our patients and staff to further embed compassionate care into our wards is really innovative and we look forward to working together to identify the benefits to patient care."

Notes for editors

1. Through world-leading research and enterprise activities, the University of Southampton connects with businesses to create real-world solutions to global issues. Through its educational offering, it works with partners around the world to offer relevant, flexible education, which trains students for jobs not even thought of. This connectivity is what sets Southampton apart from the rest; we make connections and change the world. 


2. The National Institute for Health Research Health Services and Delivery Research (NIHR HS&DR) Programme was established to fund a broad range of research. It builds on the strengths and contributions of two NIHR research programmes: the Health Services Research (HSR) programme and the Service Delivery and Organisation (SDO) programme, which merged in January 2012. The programme aims to produce rigorous and relevant evidence on the quality, access and organisation of health services, including costs and outcomes. The programme will enhance the strategic focus on research that matters to the NHS. The HS&DR Programme is funded by the NIHR with specific contributions from the CSO in Scotland, NISCHR in Wales and the HSC R&D Division, Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland.

3. The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is funded by the Department of Health to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. Since its establishment in April 2006, the NIHR has transformed research in the NHS. It has increased the volume of applied health research for the benefit of patients and the public, driven faster translation of basic science discoveries into tangible benefits for patients and the economy, and developed and supported the people who conduct and contribute to applied health research. The NIHR plays a key role in the Government’s strategy for economic growth, attracting investment by the life-sciences industries through its world-class infrastructure for health research. Together, the NIHR people, programmes, centres of excellence and systems represent the most integrated health research system in the world. For further information, visit the NIHR website (

4. This article presents independent research funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health.

For further information


Becky Attwood, Media Relations Officer, University of Southampton; 023 8059 2116, 07545422512,

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