Compassion in Care: What Are the Six Cs?

August 12, 2020
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All professionals whose job role involves looking after people should ensure that they follow best practice when at work. This means delivering a high quality of care as well as treatment, and ensuring that every professional works towards the same purpose: to deliver high quality, compassionate care, and achieve great health and wellbeing outcomes.

As a way of establishing and maintaining this high level of care, the NHS Commissioning Board developed a strategy known as Compassion in Practice. This introduces the concept of the six Cs, which underpins the strategy and the level of care that professionals should provide.

What are the 6Cs and Why Are They So Important?

The 6Cs were developed to provide a level of care which must underpin the culture and practice of all organisations that deliver care and support, as well as quality social care provision. They provide a set of common values that help to create consistency across all health and social care work, employees, leadership, and organisations, and ensure all patients and service users receive the same high quality care.

The Compassion in Practice strategy is a national strategy for nurses, midwives and care staff. It triggered a significant amount of work through six action areas. These areas are the 6Cs and they promote high quality, person-centred care for all service users and patients. They all carry an equal weight of importance and are all essential for providing compassionate care. They are defined as follows:


The Compassion in Practice strategy defines ‘Care’ as follows:

‘Care is our core business and that of our organisations, and the care we deliver helps the individual person and improves the health of the whole community. Caring defines us and our work. People receiving care expect it to be right for them, consistently throughout every stage of their life.’

In practice, this means putting high quality care at the centre of all work and practices. It means consistently delivering care that is focussed on the individual and promotes their health and wellbeing. Additionally, it means delivering care that is right for each individual, at the right time, at every stage of their life. 

For example, providing care to a person and listening to their wishes, being considerate to their beliefs, treating them with dignity, and working in accordance with best interests would demonstrate care in practice.

Carer and lady walking and laughing


Compassion means delivering care with empathy, respect, and dignity, recognising people’s emotions, and forming relationships with patients based on empathy. It can also be thought of as ‘intelligent kindness’ – recognising emotions and responding with kindness – and is an important part of how people perceive their care.

For example, it’s important to look past the person you are caring for and instead recognise them as a human being with emotions, not just a patient. Compassion is about treating them with kindness, empathising with what they are going through, and supporting them both emotionally and medically.


Competence means that all those in caring roles must have the ability to understand the health and social needs of each individual. It also means having the expertise, clinical knowledge, and technical knowledge to deliver care treatments that are effective and based on research and evidence.

People in need of care often have a varied range of needs and requirements for treatments. What’s more, every patient is different, so their preferences for treatment and their medical history will range.

For example, while one treatment may be best for one patient, for another patient certain factors, such as their age or ongoing conditions, may mean that it would not be suitable for them. Healthcare professionals should be competent and have the knowledge required to make this decision and choose the best option for their patient.

Nurse and patient discussing care


Communication is an essential part of any caring relationship and effective team. Compassion in Practice establishes the quote ‘no decision about me without me’, and communicating well is an important way of ensuring that this is always the case.

Communication is about recognising that listening is just as important as what we say and do. It’s about ensuring that you tell the patient what you are doing: keep them informed at all times about their care. It’s also about ensuring you always listen to the patient’s wishes and act upon them when you can. For example, if a patient does not consent to a certain type of treatment, you should listen and understand their decision, taking into account their point of view rather than dismissing it.


Courage means doing the right thing, speaking up when there are concerns and having the strength and vision to innovate and work in new, different ways. 

Courage is important to ensure that everyone gets the quality of care that they deserve. It means putting the patient first and being brave enough to call out when something is wrong. For example, whistleblowing if you are aware of abuse or malpractice in your organisation.

It also means having strength to speak up if you want to change something about ways of working. For example, if you think that it would provide better patient care if you changed one of your organisation’s working practices, such as changing a meal time in a residential home or allowing more flexible visiting hours, then you should have the courage to speak up and suggest it.

Woman and her carer playing football in the park


The final one of the 6Cs refers to having a commitment to patients and the community and putting this at the centre of work. Your patients and their care should be your priority. Being highly committed to them helps to improve their quality of care and experience as well as that of other patients.

Commitment also means being committed to the job role, being committed to continuous learning and being adaptable. For example, engaging in professional development practices and being willing to follow new trends and practices can help you to provide the best level of care possible, adapt to new situations, and show your commitment to the profession.

The 6Cs provide a set of values for all health and social care staff and help to ensure that everyone is working towards the same common goal. Following the 6Cs provides patients with high quality care and should be the cornerstone of all health and social care work.

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