About

photo of Suzanne Shale

Every minute  of our lives, we are relying on others to keep us from harm. Sometimes we rely on people to do the things that make it possible to live harmoniously in complicated societies. This includes being decent in our dealings with each other, being respectful of difference, and observing procedures that keep us all safe as we move about our world. Other times we have to entrust ourselves to professionals who have the power to do something we cannot, such as treat us when we are ill or protect us from violence.

All my work is, at its heart, about what makes it possible for us to trust each other, to trust professionals, to trust institutions, and to rebuild trust when trust has broken down.

I enjoy an international reputation for my research in the field of organisational ethics and clinical leadership. I described what medical leaders do about difficult moral problems in my book Moral Leadership in Medicine. More recently, the General Medical Council published my research into what medical leaders do to build cultures where health care staff treat their patients, and each other, with care and kindness. I mainly study medical leadership in the UK, but medical leaders around the world tell me they face similar moral troubles and moral tensions.

While I love research, I also delight in helping people to solve practical problems. This is the reason I chose to work as an ethics consultant, rather than continue a purely academic career.

My independence as a consultant has enabled me to work with a growing range of professions and organisations. Outside of health care, I advise charities on ethical dimensions of their work and their governance, and in 2018 led a major review of organisational culture for Save the Children UK. I chair the London Policing Ethics Panel, supporting both the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime and the Metropolitan Police Service. And I contribute to ethical debate in industries seeking to minimise risk and enhance well-being, such as air traffic control and medical insurance.

I lead working groups and strategic development projects, write evidence-based guidance, undertake confidential inquiries, and provide education and training. I find out what people are thinking through research commissions and public consultations. I have also worked one-to-one and in small groups with people dealing with the aftermath of medical harm or finding themselves in professional difficulties. I developed a structured approach I call Restorative Review, which takes seriously the need to have focused moral conversations about things that go wrong in healthcare settings.

I have a unique range of knowledge encompassing organisational cultures; addressing bullying harassment and incivility; investigating harm; restoring trust; enhancing patient safety; human factors; care experiences; ethical leadership; and the developing field of digital ethics. You can find out more about what I do by reading my posts, looking my Clear Focus page, or delving through some of the work uploaded to my Clear Ideas page.

My past career included the privilege of working at the University of Oxford for fifteen years, initially as a Fellow in Law at New College and later as the first director of Oxford’s Institute for the Advancement of University Learning, the forerunner of the current Centre for Teaching and Learning. After that I worked briefly for The Health Foundation and the amazing patient experience website Healthtalk before becoming a full time consultant.

I only undertake projects if I think I can offer real insight and believe I can make a difference. But I am also willing to try the untried and have a go at rescuing lost causes. I like to talk through ideas at an early stage, and am more than happy to help formulate aims for working together.