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 challenged 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 facilities. 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.
For Patients, Carers and Families
Chaplains are an integral part of healthcare teams and provide a service to patients, their carers and families. The role of chaplains is focused on the spiritual and religious domains, the way these relate to health and wellbeing, and how they can enable people to cope with the challenges and transitions that accompany illness, injury and suffering. Chaplains are trained and educated to postgraduate level through accredited university programmes that ensure chaplains meet the Capabilities and Competences for Spiritual and Religious Care in Healthcare (2015) and are safe to practice.
This means that chaplains are highly experienced at supporting people with a wide range of pastoral issues and concerns. They also have an understanding of the clinical procedures that patients undergo and the work of other healthcare professionals.
Further details of the education and training of healthcare chaplains are available here.
Raising a concern about a Board Registered Chaplain
If a member of the public or a professional colleague has a concern that a UKBHC Chaplain or a member of a Chaplaincy Team may not meet the UKBHC standards and draws this to the attention of the UKBHC, we will investigate and where necessary take action to protect the public. In most cases concerns should be raised locally. The employer or chaplaincy team can often resolve these issues quickly. If the complainant feels that it is not appropriate to report directly to the employer or chaplaincy team the matter should be reported directly to the UKBHC.
The UKBHC Registrar is an Officer of the Board and is the Lead Officer Responsible for Professional Conduct and will administer and facilitate the process of receiving a complaint, liaising with all relevant parties, gathering evidence, preparing an allegation and case report, referring appropriate cases to the Screening Committee and disposing of a range of suitable cases himself.
The UKBHC will support complainants in making complaints and will ensure provision of readily available advice and information on how to access support services appropriate to the complainant’s needs.
Complaints may be made verbally or in writing and should also be accepted via any other method, for example, the telephone or electronically.
Complaints against Board Registered Chaplain should be made in writing using the Complaints Form (below) and sent to the Lead Officer for Professional Conduct, UKBHC, Box 105, Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, CB2 0QQ.
UKBHC Complaints Procedure
The referral form can be accessed at:
If an individual needs help in filling in this form or set out an allegation, advice and help can be obtained by contacting the Registrar.
If the complainant is unable to put their concerns in writing the Registrar will arrange for the concerns to be documented following a conversation with the complainant and assistance can be offered in the formulating of a complaint.
An acknowledgement of receipt of the complaint should be made within five working days.
The Lead Officer will decide how to deal with your complaint and keep you informed about this process which may take several months. Usually as part of the investigation, we will send your complaint to the chaplain you are complaining about and ask them for their response to the complaint. You will be sent a copy of this response. We might also ask for more information from you, from the person you are complaining about, or from other people related to the complaint.
When there is sufficient information, the complaint will be considered by a Complaints Committee who will decide if more investigation is needed, or whether there has been professional misconduct and what steps to take next. You will be told what decisions the Complaints Committee has made.
Confidentiality and Consent to the use of information
In order to properly investigate your complaint we will need to use the information you provide us and send it to the chaplain you are complaining about. The chaplain in responding to your complaint may provide us with additional information about you. The complaints form asks for your consent to use information about you in this way. This information will be kept private. It will be seen only by the people who are involved in investigating your complaint and will only be used for the investigation.
We might need to ask you or the chaplain for further necessary information about your complaint. You can of course refuse to provide such information. However, it may be difficult for us to investigate the complaint if you do.
Raising concerns or a complaint against the UKBHC Board.
Concerns or complaints against the Board may be made verbally or in writing and should also be accepted via any other method, for example, the telephone or electronically.
Complaints or concerns regarding the Board should be received by the Registrar as above and then should be initially considered by the Board Secretary and Board Chair. Where possible the involvement of the complainant throughout the consideration of their complaint will provide for a more flexible approach to the resolution of the issue.
Acknowledgement of the concern/complaint.
A complaint or concern should be acknowledged within 5 working days of receipt, and indicate that a full response will be provided within 20 working days. Where these response times are not possible an explanation should be provided to the complainant.E