Nurses and nursing staff treat everyone in their care with dignity and humanity - they understand their individual needs, show compassion and sensitivity, and provide care in a way that respects all people equally.
Principle A: RCN Principles of Nursing Practice

Welcome to the dignity resource, devised by the RCN.

The Principles of Nursing Practice describe what everyone can expect from nursing practice, whether colleagues, patients, their families or carers. Principle A underlines the importance of supporting and promoting dignified care and how fundamental it is to quality care in all settings.

Events documented by the public inquiry into Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust (the Francis report) and reports over recent years highlighting undignified care of older people in hospitals and care homes, have necessitated a clearer focus on the delivery of compassionate and dignified care. Understanding what has led to such failings in care has been essential to the recommendations made, and actions undertaken to improve patient-centred practice and to support nurses and other care professionals in delivering this (Commission on Dignity in Care 2012; Royal College of Nursing 2013; Welsh Government 2013).

Respect and dignity are core to the national standards and strategies that describe the principles and values of the health and care services across the different UK countries. In England a three-year vision and strategy, based around six values known as the ‘6C’s’, aims to develop the culture of compassionate care and deliver high quality compassionate care in all settings. It describes compassion as “how care is given through relationships based on empathy, respect and dignity” (Department of Health and NHS Commissioning Board 2012, p.13).

This online resource on dignity aims to support everyone working in the nursing team in the delivery of dignified care. It brings together key messages and practical insights gained from the RCN's 2008/2009 'Dignity: at the heart of everything we do' campaign, building on the achievements of the campaign and related work, and illustrating the description of quality nursing care outlined in Principle A of the RCN’s Principles of Nursing Practice.

The different sections of the resource are:

If you have any comments or enquiries regarding this resource please contact us at: qualityandsafety@rcn.org.uk.


These references were last accessed on 24 March 2015 – see how to access PDF files.

For details of the national standards and strategies for the different UK countries see the country pages in the RCN Clinical governance resource.

Commission on Dignity in Care (2012) Delivering dignity: Securing dignity in care for older people in hospitals and care homes. Final report, London: Local Government Association, the NHS Confederation and Age UK.

Department of Health and NHS Commissioning Board (2012) Compassion in practice – nursing, midwifery and care staff – our vision and strategy, Redditch: NHS England.

Royal College of Nursing (2013) Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust: Public Inquiry Report. Response of the Royal College of Nursing (PDF 641KB), London: RCN.

Welsh Government (2013) Delivering safe care, compassionate care, Cardiff: Welsh Government.