Towards compassionate care through aesthetic rationality

Pamela Fisher, Dawn Freshwater

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


The Francis Report, which was based on the investigation of complaints regarding standards of care in the Staffordshire NHS Trust in the UK, was published in 2013. The Report revealed that while the Trust appeared to be compliant with the standards set by official regulating bodies, the quality of care provided to patients was often appalling. While the Report constituted a 'critical moment' in health care, its findings resonated with widespread concern in the UK and elsewhere that health care is sometimes characterised by a lack of compassion. The Francis Report partially attributed this lack of compassion to a task-based culture which tended to prioritise the meeting of targets over the quality of care provided to patients. Older patients, in particular, were identified as being vulnerable to neglect. This qualitative study of hospice volunteers responds to concerns regarding the quality of organisational forms of care by considering how motivations to care may be sustained and enhanced within organisational contexts. Charitable and third sector organisations, such as the hospice in this study, have been identified as potentially relevant to other health and social care contexts precisely because they emphasise values such as altruism and goodwill. Our sociological approach suggests that altruism or compassion can be encouraged within contexts that emphasise a sociability of care. We argue that a sociability of care may be encouraged in organisational contexts if dominant understandings of rationality are extended through the incorporation of aesthetic rationality, a feminist perspective taken from Roslyn Bologh. This, however, would require a degree of authentic emotional engagement on the part of formal caregivers, which is more typically associated with relationships in the private sphere.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)767-774
Number of pages8
JournalScandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2014
Externally publishedYes


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