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Tea and empathy

On-call emotional support for anyone who is having a really bad day

In 2016, a national Facebook group called Tea & Empathy was started by a junior doctor to provide non-judgmental, informal listening and emotional support to colleagues across the NHS who were finding work difficult.  Its popularity has been high and regional subgroups have arisen across the UK.  

What is Tea & Empathy?

Every day, one member of a team of wise, friendly people who are well known around the Trust is available to make a cup of tea and provide a gentle, listening ear to any member of staff who is having such a bad day that they are struggling to continue to work.

It isn’t intended to replace a proper debrief with their team or raising issues with their line manager as appropriate, but to provide someone external and impartial who can listen to how they are feeling, reassure them it is OK to find work hard sometimes, and help them leave an unusually bad day behind.


The rota currently covers 9am – 5pm on weekdays. It is only social hours for now while we test the model and discover how useful staff find it. 


Staff ring switchboard on 0 and ask for Tea & Empathy on-call.  Switchboard will tell them who is on-call, and if the staff member wants to be put in touch, switchboard will get hold of them.

What can I expect if I need some Tea & Empathy?

The person who is on-call – the empathiser – will arrange a time when the staff member can meet them in a quiet place, have a cup of tea together and tell them about their day.  It may not be straightaway, but it will be the same day.

The empathiser will listen non-judgmentally.  The team is made up of people who are warm and approachable and they all understand that sometimes work can feel overwhelming. 

Is it confidential?

We can’t guarantee that it will be confidential, because the empathisers need to be able to act if anything the staff member describes suggests that patient safety is at risk, or that the staff member themselves may be at risk.  Other than that, though, the details of the conversation will be between the two people alone. Care First is also available for staff who want to access completely confidential support: 0800 174 319.