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Special conference shines a spotlight on compassion and empathy

​​More than 200 NHS staff, service users and members of the community were reminded of the importance of empathy and compassion during Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust's (NSFT) second equality, diversity and inclusion conference.

The day-long event, which took place at Dunston Hall, near Norwich, on Friday (29 March), gave delegates the chance to listen to inspiring personal stories from people from a range of backgrounds and discuss ways to create a compassionate and inclusive culture in the workplace.

Speakers also talked about the importance of person-centred care, tackling bullying and employing people with learning disabilities, while others shared their knowledge of making reasonable adjustments so that everyone can access healthcare services equally.

The conference aimed to highlight the importance of inclusivity while encouraging organisations to embrace the differences in people within our society – whatever their age, culture, disability, gender, race, religion, sexuality or lifestyle choices.

Karn Purvis, Equality Advisor, said: “We were delighted that so many people were able to come to our second annual equality, diversity and inclusion conference. We were lucky enough to welcome lots of inspirational speakers who shared their personal stories about the impact which compassion and empathy has had on their lives.

“I hope that the conference underlined the importance of inclusion within our organisation, and showed our staff why it is so crucial to show empathy and compassion when delivering person-centred care.

“We will be pulling this through to our culture work, so the legacy of the conference will continue to impact for some time. It’s a real privilege to work with so many people passionately committed to inclusion.”

The theme of this year’s conference was ‘compassion and inclusion’. Speakers included Diane Hull, NSFT’s Chief Nurse, Duncan Forbes, Director of Human Resources, representatives from the Trust’s Governors and Youth Council, and colleagues from the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).

Sam Chirwa (pictured, back row), Chaplain/Spiritual and Pastoral Care Lead for Suffolk and an Equality and Diversity Trainer for the Trust, helped to organise the event.

He said: “The conference was very touching and we had some really good feedback. Those who attended said they had learnt from it and would further improve the way they work as a result, for example by speaking up for others and thinking more about their needs.

“The thing which struck me the most was the importance of having empathy and how that differs from compassion. To have real empathy with someone, we need to put ourselves in their shoes and see how things are from their perspective – only then can we really find out how best we can help that person.

“The conference included some personal stories about the difference which compassion has made to individuals. I think that it helped to show that when you work together to become more inclusive, everything else becomes much easier.”

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