Making the (Business) Case for Clinical Ethics Support in the UK

HEC Forum. 2021 Dec;33(4):371-391. doi: 10.1007/s10730-020-09416-6.


This paper provides a series of reflections on making the case to senior leaders for the introduction of clinical ethics support services within a UK hospital Trust at a time when clinical ethics committees are dwindling in the UK. The paper provides key considerations for those building a (business) case for clinical ethics support within hospitals by drawing upon published academic literature, and key reports from governmental and professional bodies. We also include extracts from documents relating to, and annual reports of, existing clinical ethics support within UK hospitals, as well as extracts from our own proposal submitted to the Trust Board. We aim for this paper to support other ethicists and/or health care staff contemplating introducing clinical ethics support into hospitals, to facilitate the process of making the case for clinical ethics support, and to contribute to the key debates in the literature around clinical ethics support. We conclude that there is a real need for investment in clinical ethics in the UK in order to build the evidence base required to support the wider introduction of clinical ethics support into UK hospitals. Furthermore, our perceptions of the purpose of, and perceived needs met through, clinical ethics support needs to shift to one of hospitals investing in their staff. Finally, we raise concerns over the optional nature of clinical ethics support available to practitioners within UK hospitals.

Keywords: Business case; Clinical ethics; Clinical ethics support; NHS.

MeSH terms

  • Ethicists
  • Ethics
  • Ethics Committees, Clinical*
  • Ethics, Clinical*
  • Ethics, Institutional
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • United Kingdom