Learning from the Pandemic: Compassionate Leadership for High Quality Care

14 Sep 2021

Professor Michael West CBE will be speaking at the President’s Conference on 6-7 October 2021. In this blog Professor West previews his talk about compassionate leadership in health and social care.

Learning

Professor Michael West CBE
Professor of Work and Organisational Psychology, Lancaster University

I joined The King’s Fund as a Senior Fellow in 2013 and I am Professor of Work and Organisational Psychology at Lancaster University. I have worked to develop cultures of high quality and compassionate care in health services over the last 35 years with a strong focus on the wellbeing of staff. During that time I have published many research papers and books detailing our research findings that have culminated in my latest book, published in July, Compassionate leadership: Sustaining wisdom, humanity and presence in health and social care. I led the English Department of Health Policy Research Programme into cultures of quality and safety and the NHS National Staff Survey development and initial implementation. Recently I had the huge privilege of co-chairing (with sadly missed Dame Denise Coia) the two-year independent inquiry on behalf of the UK General Medical Council into the mental health and well-being of doctors Caring for Doctors, Caring for Patients (2019). I also led the review for The King’s Fund (commissioned by the RCN Foundation) into the mental health and well-being of nurses and midwives across the UK, The Courage of Compassion: Supporting Nurses and Midwives to Deliver High Quality Care (2020). I was hugely honoured last year to be appointed a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List 2020 for services to compassion and innovation in healthcare. Much of my work and learning has taken place in Scotland, via RCPSG and Project Lift, and I continue to work with colleagues across health and social care in Scotland, the other UK nations and Ireland.

My presentation at the President’s conference will focus on the topic of compassionate leadership in health and social care. Those who work in health and social care give inspiring support for the health, happiness, and wellbeing of all – communities, societies, and nations. Yet their workplaces often harm their own health and wellbeing, affecting care quality, motivation, patient satisfaction and corroding cultures of compassion. There is now a crisis of leadership and workforce across health and social care consequently. In my presentation I will describe an evidence-based approach to transforming the leadership and cultures of health and social care teams and organisations. I will describe a strategy based on the core human value of compassion, showing that by sustaining that value in health and social care, we can cultivate wisdom, humanity, presence and high-quality in health and care services. The presentation will call for leaders to nurture compassion within themselves and across health and social care institutions, to support healthier and happier workplaces and communities. The presentation will challenge leaders at every level to have the courage and authenticity to embody compassion in their leadership now and for the long-term future.

Professor West will be a speaker at the President’s Conference Time to Heal: Recovery and Renewal on 6-7 October 2021. Watch Professor West speak about his talk in a short video here.

The full programme for the President’s Conference can be found here.

Categories: Wellbeing, Workforce


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Health services in many parts of the world are over-stretched due to workforce shortages, rising demand for services and difficulties in retaining staff.
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The health inequalities in our society have been both highlighted and exacerbated by the covid pandemic. There is a need to do things differently.
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