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Meet the team: Creators of Compassionate Cultures


  • Andy Bradley (Frameworks 4 Change)
  • Paul Johanson (KindfulWay)
  • Joshua Malkin (Network of Wellbeing)
  • Melissa Canavan (Respiratory Care Solutions)

The current challenges and opportunities

“Asking people who are paid to care day after day after day to continue to offer that care without themselves being cared for is immoral, unethical, unwise and inefficient” –  Ballat and Campling (Intelligent Kindness: Reforming the culture of Healthcare)

The recent launch of the new NHS England Health and Wellbeing Framework (May 2018) highlights the important role of organisations in supporting staff health and wellbeing. The framework suggests organisational enablers and health interventions. The enablers include leadership, structural and cultural essentials that need to be in place to support the building blocks of staff health and wellbeing. We would like to explore whether compassion circles can provide a structure which enables health and wellbeing in a community trust in Leeds.

Staff health and wellbeing is a current priority for Leeds Community Healthcare Trust with a current high percentage of sickness in comparison to other community trusts (data to be included).

Within the trust, current local action planning is taking place in response to staff satisfaction and engagement survey results which has also highlighted shared concerns staff have themselves about their health and wellbeing.

Leeds Community trust are developing a revised and comprehensive quality improvement strategy. We would like to explore whether compassion circles can  offer structure to create the safe learning spaces required to develop relational intelligence as part of the cultivation of improvement and change capabilities.

Local Care Partnership groups are being developed and nurtured across 18 Leeds neighbourhoods. There is an opportunity to explore how compassion circles can provide the structure and practices to nurture generative compassionate health and wellbeing in neighbourhoods.

Established networks of others implementing compassion circles elsewhere (both in and out of the NHS) in the UK and Wales provide rich opportunities to share learning e.g  Learning from Excellence (West Mids Patient Safety Collaborative).  There is also an emerging compassion circle exchange community.

What are Compassion Circles?

Compassionately facilitated 1 hour sessions of groups of people who together participate in practices of sharing (dialogue), listening and appreciating each other.

Sessions are based on structured practices of holding space, mindful self-compassion and being in community. Key processes of this facilitation include, preparation of space and self, warm welcome, meet as equals, celebrate differences, space for contemplation and commitment to act.

Key questions are used in the supportive safe space created in order to explore and discover enablers and barriers to flow of compassion. Compassion circles enhance relational safety, trust, confidence and wellbeing and offer an important shift from hero to host leadership.

Overview of the proposal

Year 1 

Provide two taster/introductory workshops  inviting staff from across various teams to explore and experience a compassion circle.

Provide 2 day facilitation training to 24 staff interested and committed to implementing in their teams.

Development of an evaluation framework and plan to harvest and share learning and stories.

Development and nurturing of a community of practice of compassion circle facilitators

Year 2

Deepening of learning and understanding

Adjust and adapt model for different contexts

A sharing workshop event including harvesting knowledge on impacts and implementation

What do we hope to achieve?

To generate knowledge and evidence about how compassion circles  can enable positive benefits for health and wellbeing of staff.

To generate knowledge about how compassion circles can support and enable quality improvement cultures.

To discover if compassion circles can support the work of local care partnerships in developing compassionate health generative neighbourhoods.

What benefits this will bring to the Q Community?

This section will be further developed.

New knowledge, evidence and learning about compassion circles as structures to support change including health and wellbeing of staff, supporting development of cultures of continuous quality improvement and supporting compassionate health generative neighbourhoods.

How you can contribute

  • Suggestions and ideas to refine and improve this idea
  • Suggested connections and collaborations to others (Q and beyond)
  • Suggested evaluation approaches and tools

Further information

The Structure that holds the space (DOCX, 32KB)


  1. Hi Angela

    It is really great to hear about the work you have been doing. As part of my mental health project we have been working with Andy Bradley and Benna Waites to implement the use of Taking Care Giving Care Rounds (adapted from Andy Bradley's Compassion Circles) to support compassionate care in our mental health services in Wales. It has been really exciting time seeing the positive affects that the rounds have on staff wellbeing and such an important tool to use in this current climate.

    We also held the first Compassionate Care Conference in March 2020 and Andy joined us which was wonderful.

    I would be really interested in hearing about your experiences in evaluating the impact of using compassion circles. This is something we would be keen to do to measure impact over time.

  2. Hi Angela and Anne,

    I like this initiative - and can see parallels with Q's new Improving Joy in Work SIG, with its focus on the importance of 'psychological safety' etc.

    Measuring 'psychological safety' and 'relational coordination' could be a fairly good precursor and prerequisite to compassion, even if it's not quite the same. Is it close enough to be a proxy - not sure. Q member Claire Kenwood can tell you more about work in these areas.

    I don't know Prof Michael West's tools for measuring compassion. Are they appropriate here? What about the Schwartz Centre's Compassionate Care Scale? I think the 'Quiet Ego Scale' is a way to measure compassionate self-identity. Loevinger's Ego Stage does something similar...

    Also: if you’re interested in NHS Communities of Practice (CoPs), please join Q’s CoPs special interest group’s Zoom call on 13 July (1pm) to hear about the evaluation of the Health Innovation Network’s CoPs – their challenges and their journey.
    ** More info/to register:  **
    The call will be an opportunity to glean advice and insights to help this project too.


  3. Hi Angela

    I don't know of any formal ways to measure compassionate cultures and I would need convincing of the need for measurement in any traditional way - my instinct tells me that its all about helping people become more compassionate and that is very personal to the people involved.  However I guess you could measure some steps organisations take to give people time and space to be compassionate perhaps....but not compassion itself?


    E mail from Michael West 16/6/18
    "Thank you Angela. And the work is so important – you are changing the work lives of people in the trust for the better. And thereby helping ensure high quality, compassionate patient care. I hope the attached is helpful."
    Michael West
    Professor of Organizational Psychology
    Lancaster University Management School
    Lancaster, LA1 4YX 
    M:+44 (0) 777 833 2424    
    Twitter @westm61

  5. Guest

    Hi Angela,

    this sounds amazing...

    also about time we caight-up! Suspect there is lots we can share and learn in relationship to this.


    1. Thanks Rod, yes we must catch up soon. You are a key leader of compassionate cultures. I learn a lot from your example of Mallard Ward. Would be interested to hear what you doing in Rotherham. Say hi to folks in Rotherham from me.

  6. Hi Angela. I think this is a really important project idea.  We need more compassionate workplaces.  Best of luck with this one.

    1. Thank you Claire.

      Do you have any thoughts about how to measure compassionate cultures?

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