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This short film is based on 50 interviews conducted during the COVID pandemic across the UK in 2020. It highlights the importance of what matters conversations in the delivery of effective patient care from the perspective of professionals, and gives examples from clinical practice of how this approach can be incorporated into busy daily practice.

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For health care professionals discovering what really matters to people lies at the very heart of good care. The importance to professionals of deliberately finding this out has been articulated over the years by many from the time of  Hippocrates to the present day.


“Whatsoever things I see or hear concerning the life of men, in my attendance on the sick or even apart there from, which ought not be noised abroad, I will keep silence thereon, counting such things to be as sacred secrets.” Hippocrates (400BC)


“The good physician treats the disease; the great physician treats the patient who has the disease.”  Sir William Osler (1890-)


It is about seeing the person in the patient, or in the direct words of Florence Nightingale, “Apprehension, uncertainty, waiting, expectation, fear of surprise, do a patient more harm than exertion.” Florence Nightingale (1860-)


Doctors and nurses have to overcome the universal, congenital tactlessness that afflicts humanity, and under difficult circumstances: the continuous exposure to suffering,
to needy people, in a context where the needs and the suffering have to be translated into problems to be solved and solved problems are reckoned up as output. For this, something more than ‘customer service’ and a narrowly contractual approach to care is required. 
Raymond Tallis 2004-


Yet in the ever pressurised world of clinical practice it is so easy to adopt a contractual approach to patients.  Conducting ‘what matters’ conversations can be categorised as a fanciful luxury, an optional extra from an ideal world which can compliment, if there is time, the real task of fixing, saving or repairing patients. “When one of my patients has a cardiac arrest they do not want me to hold their hand and find out about their love of gardening or if they would prefer to be buried in a wicker coffin”


What do you think?


We hope this film will encourage thought and discussion and will be useful for general education and small group work with a wide range of clinical and social work practitioners.

We would also very much value your thoughts, ideas and experiences around what matters conversations.  Email

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