Is it time to 'Reset' clinical ethics?

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talkResearch


At the beginning of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, many non-Covid healthcare services were suspended. In April 2020, the Department of Health in England mandated that non-Covid services should resume, alongside the continuing pandemic response. This ‘resetting’ of healthcare services created a unique context in which it became critical to consider how ethical considerations did (and should) underpin decisions about integrating infection control measures into the routine practice of healthcare to protect hospital communities from Covid-19 infection. This presentation draws on data collected as part of the UKRI-funded ‘Reset Ethics’ project, which explored the everyday ethical challenges of resetting England’s NHS maternity and paediatrics services during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

In the crisis phases of the pandemic, approaches that prioritised the greatest good for the greatest number had to come to the fore, whereas in the reset phase, concerns for individual patients and their care resurfaced. It was this mediation between patient-centred care, underpinned by clinical ethics, and public health concerns, underpinned by public health ethics, that presented ethical challenges for healthcare professionals in maternity and paediatric services. Our data indicate that significant ethical challenges were encountered by healthcare professionals as a result of changes to their working practices, and that infection prevention and control measures represented harmful barriers to the experience of receiving and offering care, for both patients and healthcare professionals. The value of relationships in healthcare, particularly in maternity and paediatric services, was thrown into sharp focus.

It has long been the case that, in offering treatment and care, healthcare professionals have considered more than just the individual patient in front of them: the importance of relationships has always been an implicit (and/yet) important part of clinical ethics. We argue that the experiences of Covid-19 have brought into sharp relief the need explicitly to recognise the importance of relationships to care. This means a shift must be made in how we prioritise ethical values, away from the ‘usual’ patient-centred framing and towards a more distinctive relationships-based integration of clinical and public health ethics.
Period8 Nov 2023
Event titleMeeting of the Derby Medical Society
Event typeOther
LocationDerbyShow on map
Degree of RecognitionRegional