Being a Chaplain

Chaplains have been caring for patients and staff in UK hospitals for over a thousand years. Today the chaplain is looked to as a professional figure with expertise to provide spiritual, pastoral and religious care. Chaplains come from many different traditions and faiths but are united by their common focus and participation in the health sector. The NHS along with hospices and private facilities all draw on the services of chaplains to provide holistic care which recognises the vital relationship between spirituality and wellbeing.

Being a chaplain in the 21st century requires both skill and knowledge. While much of the chaplain’s work will be with patients there is also an important advisory and educational role. Excellent patient-centred care requires a nuanced understanding of diversity, difference and personal needs. Failure to provide effective spiritual care can lead to distress, malnutrition and the refusal to consent to life-saving interventions (e.g. transfusion).

Each of the departments of health in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales recognise the importance of chaplaincy and advise health providers to ensure that patients have access to spiritual care services. Chaplains across the UK are recognised by the NHS pay structure, Agenda for Change, and are required to comply with the Knowledge and Skills Framework.

The conception of chaplaincy as a distinctive community of professional staff is a relatively new phenomenon. Sociological data describes the UK as a place of accelerating spiritual diversity, making more complex and exacting the practice of chaplaincy. In this context the need for open, inclusive and informed chaplains becomes a professional priority.

The UK Board of Healthcare Chaplaincy contributes to excellence in chaplaincy and serves the interests of all those providing or receiving spiritual care.