10th March 2022
The six NHS core values ensure that patients receive the best possible care. Before your Medical School interviews, make sure you confidently know what each value is. Take it one step further by preparing examples of how you’ve demonstrated each value yourself.

Written by Jenita Jona James

1. Respect And Dignity

All those who come into contact with the NHS will be treated with the utmost respect and dignity, whether that is patients, families or staff. This involves respecting others’ opinions, their needs, their privacy as well as promoting equality and diversity in the workplace.

If a Doctor didn’t respect a patient’s wishes, this would be a loss of autonomy for the patient even if the Doctor was acting on the principle of beneficence. It makes the patient feel like they have not been listened to and reinforces the ‘Doctor is always right’ paternalistic mentality which Medicine has grown out of over the years.

For interviews:

Have you seen any Doctors respect their patient’s wishes even if it was not what was best for them medically? How did nurses help patients preserve their dignity? This could be something as small as drawing the curtains when they get changed.

This topic could come up in the form of ethics interview questions – so make sure you understand the four pillars of ethics, too!


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2. Commitment To Quality Of Care

The care that the NHS provide its patients should be of the highest quality, and if it isn’t, they should look into what’s going wrong. They can be done in a few ways. Clinical audits compare current practices to the gold standard and where they don’t match, change is implemented.

Another way is to encourage patients, families, carers and staff to provide feedback on the care they receive. This shows that the NHS is receptive to making improvements and that they really value the opinions of the public.

For interviews:

You could talk about how Doctors have to be revalidated every few years to ensure their knowledge is kept up to date. Also, mention the importance of clinical audits and what would happen if we didn’t do them. What are the feedback/complaints processes at your local hospital? Sometimes it’s the little things that really make a difference.

For this value, in my interviews, I talked about how I used to write down how each patient liked their tea/coffee instead of asking them each time and made it just the way they liked it when they wanted a cup of tea. It adds a little personal touch when they are in an unfamiliar environment without friends/family, especially during the pandemic.

You may find that any of your observations of commitment to quality of care can enhance your answers to depth and breadth of interest interview questions. Ensure you’re confident in being able to overlap the two.

3. Compassion

This one’s an easy one! This value is about being kind and empathetic towards your patients. Put yourselves in their shoes and think about how you would like to be treated if you were them.

For interviews:

Hopefully, you have all been able to do some volunteering and have some examples for when you have demonstrated understanding. If not, think about your personal life. Have you had to console a friend who was upset about something? Have you lent an ear to someone who just wanted to vent about things?

It’s possible you could be asked empathy questions at interview, which is a perfect opportunity for you to weave examples where you’ve demonstrated compassion. Take a look at the empathy questions page and have a go.

4. Improving Lives

The NHS seeks to improve not just the health of each patient, but their whole lives – think of a biopsychosocial approach. A patient’s health condition may affect their physical health but also their mental health, their occupation, their family relationships and so on. So when you provide treatment for a patient, you provide the best treatment that is suited to them in their current life situation.

The NHS also focusses on prevention of diseases, especially heart disease, diabetes etc. After all, prevention is better than cure. This involves creating leaflets and TV adverts concerning public health and encouraging people to lead healthy lives by exercising, eating better, and getting a good amount of sleep.

For interviews:

Think of a patient you may have seen where their health condition impacted their whole life, and the Doctor took all this into account before making a decision on their care. For example, isotretinoin is a very effective medication for severe acne. However, you would not give this to a woman who is wanting to get pregnant as it can harm the baby.

Your potential to become a Doctor that is able to improve the lives of patients could be tested when personal insight interview questions are asked – so be absolutely confident in your skillsets when answering!


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5. Working Together For Patients

Another easy one! All staff working together to provide a reliable, compassionate health service for their patients is what the NHS is built on. This is important so that patients feel like they come first, and that their needs are put above all else.

For interviews:

Think about the work shadowing you have done. How did the Doctors work with the nurses to provide care for the patient? How well did they work with other health care professionals? Talk about what would happen if this teamwork and communication broke down, and how it would affect patient care.

This is a very likely topic to come up during teamwork interview questions, so make sure you’re prepared!

6. Everyone Counts

This value is about the fact that everyone matters. Everyone should be included, and not discriminated against on any grounds when providing care. It is also about distributive justice and the fair allocation of resources to those in need.

For interviews:

This can be a hard one to give examples for, but it can be weaved into distributive justice type ethical questions. For example, have you witnessed instances where a Doctor’s action prioritised one group of patients over another? If so, how was the decision justified? There may be cases where it is not – such as inequality that impacts the healthcare services provided to BAME patients.

As an aspiring medic, it is a given that you are passionate about helping people – so think about how you can tie that in with this particular core value when answering background and motivation questions.

There will be nuances of interpretation of the NHS values between different individuals, but the overall idea of it is the same. In fact, it might be even better to take each value and explore what they really mean to YOU. This will help you understand them better and will help you relate them to your own experiences.

Make sure you check out our NHS hot topics guide so you can begin to think about how these core values can be applied in different situations. To supplement your NHS knowledge, go to our guide to the current state of the NHS.


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