About Chaplains

Chaplains have been caring for patients and staff in UK hospitals for over a thousand years. Today chaplains are employed by the NHS and other healthcare organisations for their expertise in providing spiritual, pastoral and religious care. Chaplains come from many different traditions and faiths but are united by their compassionate concern to support those who are challanged by illness and injury whether they are patients or their carers.

In most healthcare organisations the number of chaplains working in it are relatively low in number compared to the number of patients, wards and facilites. This means that although chaplains can often be seen out and about on wards there may not be a chaplain around when a patient would like to speak with one.  For this reason it is best to ask a doctor or nurse to be referred to a chaplain. Anyone can ask to see a chaplain, you do not have particular beliefs to speak with one. In most acute hospitals a chaplain is available to respond to urgent calls 24 hours a day.

Where a patient, member of staff or a visitor requests support from a chaplain of their own faith every effort will be made to meet this need.  However, this is not always possible (as chaplains of some faiths are many miles away from the point of need).  If this kind of request cannot be met the chaplain involved will offer such assistance and support as he or she can provide.

Sometimes a patient or carer requests spiritual support and are not a practicing member of a religious community.  It is the responsibility of the chaplain to support someone in this position.  For example, through the chaplain’s familiarity with existential questions it is possible to relate to the anxieties and concerns about meaning experienced by others.  In some instances the differences between the chaplain’s spirituality and that of the patient can become creative occasions of insight and personal growth.  However, the chaplain must be mindful that the privilege of providing spiritual care confers the responsibility to respect the traditions and beliefs of others.

The UK professional bodies expect chaplains to work to a very high standard of vocational commitment.  Nothing should be done by chaplains to diminish public confidence in them either individually or as a group.  In addition to their specific duties many chaplains work in inter-faith teams, providing positive models for both their institution and society at large.

The Code of Conduct sets out in detail the parameters of practice agreed by the UK professional bodies.