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The relationship between perceived organisational threat and compassion for others: Implications for the NHS

Henshall, Lauren Elizabeth; Alexander, Tim; Molyneux, Philip; Gardiner, Eric; McLellan, Ashleigh


Lauren Elizabeth Henshall

Eric Gardiner

Ashleigh McLellan


© 2017 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. The National Health Service (NHS) is known to be a challenging place to work, with financial and performance targets placing increasing pressure on the organisation. This study aimed to investigate whether these pressures and threats might be detrimental to the quality of care and the compassion that the NHS strives to deliver. Quantitative data were collected via self-report questionnaires from healthcare professionals across 3 NHS trusts in England in order to measure Self-compassion; Compassion for Others; Perceived Organisational Threat; and Perceived Organisational Compassion. Qualitative data were also collected to explore the threats considered most pertinent to healthcare professionals at present. The key findings suggest that an increase in Perceived Organisational Threat may reduce an individual's ability to give compassion to others; however, Self-compassion and Perceived Organisational Compassion were better predictors of Compassion for Others. This highlights the need to consider compassion at a systemic level, providing interventions and training not only to cultivate self-compassion in healthcare professionals, but also to encourage compassion across the NHS more generally. In promoting self-compassion and increasing the level of compassion that employees feel they receive at work, healthcare professionals may be better able to maintain or improve their level of compassion for service users and colleagues. Key Practitioner Message: Increases in Perceived Organisational Threat were found to be related to a decrease in healthcare professionals' level of Compassion for Others. However, Self-compassion and Perceived Organisational Compassion were significantly better predictors of level of Compassion for Others than was Perceived Organisational Threat; an increase in Self-compassion and Perceived Organisational Compassion related to an increase in Compassion for Others. Healthcare service development and staff interventions may benefit from greater focus on cultivating and promoting self-compassion and on systemic interventions promoting compassion across all levels of an organisation. Future research should examine the feasibility and effectiveness of compassion-focussed interventions amongst professionals in healthcare organisations and would benefit from further investigation into the impact this may have for service users.


Henshall, L. E., Alexander, T., Molyneux, P., Gardiner, E., & McLellan, A. (2018). The relationship between perceived organisational threat and compassion for others: Implications for the NHS. Clinical psychology and psychotherapy : an international journal of theory & practice, 25(2), 231-249.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 16, 2017
Online Publication Date Nov 23, 2017
Publication Date Apr 2, 2018
Deposit Date Oct 18, 2017
Publicly Available Date Nov 24, 2018
Journal Clinical psychology and psychotherapy
Print ISSN 1063-3995
Electronic ISSN 1099-0879
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 25
Issue 2
Pages 231-249
Keywords Compassion, Organisations, Organisational threat
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is a description of an article accepted for publication in Clinical psychology and psychotherapy. The full text is not currently available in this repository.


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