‘Compassionate Care’ In U.K. After Deplorable Care, Alzheimer’s Drowning

Sometimes it takes a disaster to make things better.

For Ken Schwartz, it was a diagnosis of late-stage lung cancer at age 40 that prompted this realization: at the core of first-class health care is the compassionate, human bond between patient and provider.

Schwartz’ terrible medical ordeal — he died in 1995, ten months after his diagnosis — gave rise to the Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare, and the nonprofit’s signature program, the “Schwartz Center Rounds,” which helps medical professionals better manage the tough social and emotional issues they face as caregivers. (We wrote about one particularly fraught case involving a speedy organ donation here.)

These days, Schwartz Rounds are held in about 300 hospitals and health care institutions in the U.S. and there’s currently a waiting list of sites hoping to launch the program.

Now, in Britain, the National Health Service is adopting Schwartz Rounds in dozens, and eventually hundreds, of hospitals. Why? According to a news release from the Schwartz Center, U.K. Health Minister Dr. Dan Poulter says the program is criticallly needed: “Shocking failures of care [in our National Health Service] demonstrate the need for more compassionate care right across hospitals and care homes. Schwartz Center Rounds have been shown to help hospital and care staff support each other and learn about how to deal better with tough situations, and spend more time focused on caring for patients in a compassionate way.”

According to media reports, a number of horrific health-related disasters occurred at NHS hospitals over the last couple of years. One particularly alarming case involved the drowning of an Alzheimer’s patient who was supposed to be closely monitored by care providers. Continue reading