UK: The DNA Of Care – Cultivating Compassion Through Digital Storytelling

Last Updated: 12 December 2017
Article by Karen Taylor

Stories give people permission to talk – they give staff, patients and their families a voice that touches everyone who listens. Last week we published our report Time to care which highlights the importance of supporting the physical and mental wellbeing of hospital staff in order to ensure a sustainable and effective workforce. This Thursday I attended an inspiring event called 'The DNA of Care', a shared learning event hosted by NHS England. The event showcased a series of digital stories developed by Patient Voices and an evaluation of how digital stories are being used to provide a voice to NHS staff as part of their DNA of Care project.1 During the event I was struck by the power of staff stories and how these stories could help tackle some of the challenges identified in our research. I have long been a strong advocate of the power of digital stories. This week's blog shares some of my insights from this event and why I believe digital stories are not only incredibly impactful and cathartic for the people involved in telling their stories, but can help others understand the amazing courage, resilience and compassion of NHS staff.

The DNA of care

Last year I was also privileged to be invited to the inaugural DNA of Care event which launched the DNA of Care Project. Since then, Patient Voices have been working on evaluating the impact of the staff stories presented at that inaugural event while continuing to make new stories with staff and patients across the NHS.2 The stories presented are incredibly powerful and demonstrate the resilience and compassion of staff in their professional and personal lives. Moreover, the stories teach compassion and most importantly, self-compassion. The many examples of these staff and also patient stories can be found on the Patient Voices webpage.

Staff and patient experience are two sides of the same coin and the intertwined relationship between patient care and staff well-being has been likened to the DNA double helix; staff and patient relationships form the DNA of care. What is evident from all of these stories is that NHS staff carry within themselves a vast reservoir of expertise and experience and in sharing their otherwise unspoken, unheard stories of care and caring, their stories are contributing powerfully to transforming care delivery.

Patient Voices was the brainchild of Pilgrims Projects (PP) who are specialists in health and education work-based learning programmes. In 2003, PP founded the Patient Voices Programme, "to bring the voices of all those waiting patiently to be heard to the ambitious enterprise of improving the quality and safety of healthcare". Since then, Patient Voices have been using reflective digital storytelling to unearth first-person stories that deliver compelling and motivating insight helping to drive organisational change, growth and success.

Fast forward to 2016, when NHS England decided to fund a series of Patient Voices workshops in order for staff to create their own digital stories. The aim being to use these stories to help other people understand the reality of working in healthcare and promote learning from these experiences, both good and bad; and contribute to making healthcare safer, more dignified, more humane and more compassionate for everyone. The stories involve everything from critical incidents and never-events; clinicians in distress (wounded healers); and staff who are also carers.

The feedback from story tellers time and again demonstrate how the act of story-telling was life changing and enabled them to take back control, and promote the healing of themselves and their families. These stories are also widely used to improve care across healthcare, and support the 'business case' for patient-centred transformation of care.

Between 2005 and 2009, I commissioned PP to develop patient and carer stories to underpin a series of Value for Money audit reports that I led while working for the National Audit Office. These included reports on Stroke, Neonatal and End of life care services. DVDs containing these digital stories were included with the reports and shared with the Public Accounts Committee, conference delegates and others involved in clinical care and education. The stories illuminated more powerfully than the written word, the key findings, giving people a more in-depth understanding of the conditions, experiences and lives of the people who had shared their stories.

Ever since my first involvement, I have been an advocate of the power of digital stories. For this reason I also contributed to a book developed by Patient Voices called 'Cultivating Compassion: How digital storytelling is transforming healthcare' which was launched in 2014 and which I covered in a blog at the time.3 The book has recently been updated, including my own chapter, and was re-launched at the end of the DNA of Care event. It provides a rich source of inspiration and demonstrates how digital stories can be a force for service transformation.

The Patient Voices approach to digital storytelling has gained support and recognition throughout the international healthcare community. Feedback consistently shows they are valued for their succinctness, emotional power and versatility. Other feedback, highlights the power of personal narratives to 'heal, transform, deepen insights, promote understanding and enable reflection'.

In reflecting back on the use of digital stories, I am convinced that they should be seen as an integral part of an 'evidence evolution' strengthening the information base, impact and value of research. As the DNA of Care event showed, whether it's using digital storytelling to drive change or simply allowing the stories to speak for themselves, this form of evidence is likely to leave a more lasting impression than most others.

Today, the rise of digital technology and the explosion of health data means patient stories are easier to make and more readily accessible than ever before. The patient voice continues to turn the historical imbalance of access to information on its head, with digital stories increasingly used to coach, educate and train people to self-manage their condition and support others with similar conditions. Don't take my word, read the book, listen to the stories and decide for yourself – and be prepared for just how effective digital stories can be in helping to transform services.





The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions