The Compassion Project

This Global Read was held January 20, 2021


ProjectFrome in Somerset, UK has seen a dramatic fall in emergency hospital admissions since it began a collective project to combat isolation. While emergency admissions to hospitals across Somerset have increased by 29%, incurring a 21% increase in costs, Frome has seen admissions fall by 17%, with a 21% reduction in costs.

Society has developed in such a way to facilitate a drastic malnourishment of community, connection and compassion. This book sets out the case for the effective restoration of the active power of compassion as a widely available, fundamental force for good in all aspects of human life. In the process, it draws attention to research which demonstrates that an innate capacity and need for compassionate behavior is closely woven into the fabric of our bodies.

But this is also a book with stories to tell - the stories of how, by harnessing the power of compassion in the lives of real men and women, the small English town of Frome has opened up a new approach to the practice of medicine which has improved individual health and welfare while at the same time enhancing the vitality of the whole community. The effects of this approach have proved so beneficial that it has attracted international attention and is now transforming perspectives on issues of healthcare and social welfare across the world


About the Author

AbelDr. Julian Abel became a consultant in palliative care in 2001, working initially at a district general hospital and in hospice. Over the last 10 years he has become increasingly involved in finding ways of building compassionate communities around people at their end-of-life. He has run projects at local, regional and national levels. He was the chair of the organising committee for the 4th International Conference on Public Health and Palliative Care, held in Bristol in 2015 and until recently, was Vice President of Public Health Palliative Care International. He is an international keynote speaker and has published regularly on models on public health palliative care. Abel and Professor Allan Kellehear are the editors for the forthcoming publication of the Oxford Textbook of Public Health Palliative Care.

Since 2016 he has been working with Frome Medical Practice in Somerset in developing a new model of primary care combined with compassionate communities. The health outcomes of this model have been dramatic, with this being the first intervention that has been effective in improving the health of the town of Frome - at the same time reducing population emergency admissions. Increasing compassion, love, laughter and friendship is the most effective way of leading a happy, healthy and long life. The outcomes from Frome have generated international interest and this became the subject matter for The Compassion Project. Dr Julian Abel is joint author of The Compassion Project, along with the prize winning novelist Lindsay Clarke.

Compassionate communities is one of the most effective therapeutic tools we have in improving length of life and well being. Along with Professor Kellehear and Dr. Catherine Millington Sanders, he has formed, and is the Director of Compassionate Communities UK. The charity has been formed to develop the broader roll-out of compassionate communities in both primary care and end of life care. Projects are underway in multiple areas in the UK, and several international projects are under development. 

The Project's Website:


About the Hosts

terry aylingTerry Ayling commenced his role as Spiritual Care Coordinator with Palliative Care Queensland (Australia) in July 2020 following almost 40 years in spiritual care roles. He also serves as Spiritual Care Coordinator of Gold Coast Health Spiritual Care Service and of Hopewell Hospice Services. 

Terry is a Member of the Australian Compassion Council of the Global Charter for Compassion, lead for the Compassionate Cities Initiative and Facilitator of Compassionate Gold Coast.  He is a champion for ‘Compassion in Healthcare’ with a specific interest in ‘Compassion at-the-end of-life’.  He has completed Inter-professional Spiritual Care Education Curriculum (ISPEC) Training and is completing his Compassion Integrity Training Facilitator training.

sheila goreSheila Gore is a former town councillor and former mayor of Frome, UK.  Originally working as a teacher, as well as in education for the Natural History Museum, she worked with a large community of parents and children up and down the country.   After many years of listening to residents, hearing their struggles and their wishes for the town, and one fight against a large supermarket development, Sheila became ensconced in the town council, the UK’s first fully independent council, and from there she became mayor. 

Sheila’s ethos, and the aim of the council in general, is that everyone should be listened to, even those that disagree and those that may present conflict. In Sheila’s eyes, the connection between residents and councillors is integral to Frome’s success.  The direction of the town is decided by what is best as defined by residents rather than governance far outside of the town’s boundaries.  The story of Frome, particularly from Sheila’s perspective is one where small things can always make a huge difference, from checking on five neighbors during the Covid epidemic, to sporadically buying a whole food shop. 


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