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Caring for carers. How a new approach centres on nurse welfare in the shadow of covid-19 pressures

Researchers based in Southampton have created a support programme for nursing teams that improves the welfare of staff and helps them with patient care even under the pressures facing the NHS.

Nurses in particular are at high risk of occupational stress with a suicide rate 23% higher than the national average, and with the highest levels of distress from infectious disease outbreaks such as Covid-19.

The CLECC support programme when introduced, was shown by University of Southampton research (funded by NIHR) to be an important way to improve nurses’ wellbeing, and to support teams in the delivery of compassionate patient care.

Creating Learning Environments for Compassionate Care (CLECC) was developed with nursing teams and trialled in general hospitals and mental health in-patient units. It is the result of over a decade of detailed research lead by Professor Jackie Bridges based at the University of Southampton and a research lead for NIHR ARC Wessex.

Through a series of interviews with nursing staff and managers the team have been able to work through the practicalities (feasibility) of using CLECC on the wards. The information from those interviews and observations in conjunction with research into patient care, nurse burnout and safety has led to the support programme.

Professor Bridges, a nurse by training, said: “It’s often said that you can’t pour from an empty cup – when it comes to caring from others.

As people we all need a supportive team around us so that we can do our best for others.

CLECC has been carefully designed to support nursing staff learning and wellbeing, develop sustainable leadership and the delivery of compassionate care.”

The result of all this work is the development of a toolkit, a guide, to help nursing teams and managers to use the principles of CLECC in their everyday work.

Professor Mark Radford, Deputy Chief Nursing Officer for England said:

“As nurses and midwives across England begin to look to the future, supporting the NHS to recover and rebuild, it is heartening to see inclusive approaches such as the Creating Learning Environments for Compassionate Care programme.

Encouraging us to come together to develop shared goals, to learn what is working well and where there are opportunities to do better - no matter where we may work, no matter what our role may be.”

Nursing teams and staff can find out more about CLECC from the ARC Wessex website or just search for CLECC in any search engine.

Here’s a quote from one of the nurses interviewed during the research:

“So, whereas before they might know that orange bay is heavier than green bay, they might not necessarily have volunteered to go and help. Now they are much more aware that if they are going – well actually we're struggling – well, we're not, we'll come and help you and I think that's because of the [clusters] and the fact that we're all sitting down and going – is there anything we can do to help you? And if they are going – well actually I've got a really poorly patient, so I've been struggling with the others – right – well then – we'll come and help you. And it's made them more aware of each other.”

Notes to editors:

This has been funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research ARC Wessex, Health and Social Care Delivery Research (HSDR) Programme and NHS England (formerly NHSE/I).

NIHR ARC Wessex is an organisation that conducts research in collaboration with NHS Trusts and Universities across Wessex, is it funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR)

NHS Improvement became part of NHS England in July 2022. NHS Improvement and NHS England have worked together as a single organisation since 1 April 2019, to help improve care for patients and provide leadership and support to the wider NHS.

The Health and Social Care Delivery Research Programme is funded by the NIHR with specific contributions from the Chief Scientist Office (CSO) in Scotland, Health and Care Research Wales and the HSC R&D Division, Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland.

For more information contact:

Jamie Stevenson at ARC Wessex at


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