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Failings in patient care and quality in NHS Trusts have become a recurring theme over the past few years. In this paper, we examine the Care Quality Commission's Guidance about Compliance: Essential Standards of Quality and Safety and ask how NHS Trusts might be better supported in fulfilling the regulations specified therein. We argue that clinical ethics committees (CECs) have a role to play in this regard. We make this argument by attending to the many ethical elements that are highlighted in the Commission's Regulations and by providing practical examples of how CECs can (and in some case already do) provide ethics support to health professionals and trusts. Although CECs have been traditionally associated with case consultation, i.e., discrete problems caused by individual circumstances, in the previous 10 years the literature suggests that clinical ethics services have become more integrated into the life of the health care organization and are increasing construed as proactive agents of systematic change. We provide evidence from a recent survey of UK clinical ethics services that this trend is present in the UK.

Original publication




Journal article


HEC Forum

Publication Date





139 - 147


Ethics Committees, Clinical, Guideline Adherence, Hospitals, Public, Quality Improvement, Quality of Health Care, State Medicine, United Kingdom