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New health-care faith chaplains will complement existing ones, Church of England

22 September 2017


Comforter: a plaque in the chapel of St James’s University Hospital, Leeds, erected by Leeds Board of Guardians to commemorate the nurses of Leeds Township Infirmary who died during World War I and during the 1917-18 influenza epidemic

Comforter: a plaque in the chapel of St James’s University Hospital, Leeds, erected by Leeds Board of Guardians to commemorate the nurses of Leeds Tow...

HOSPITAL chaplains who have trained on a new course based at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust (GSTT) will complement but not replace those who represent particular religious communities, the C of E’s national adviser on medical ethics and health and social-care policy, the Revd Dr Brendan McCarthy, said this week.

This month, 12 students will be the first to study for a postgraduate certificate in hospital chaplaincy at London South Bank University (LSBU), in partnership with GSTT. The one-year course is open to everyone, and is led by chaplains, including the chaplaincy team leader at GSTT, the Revd Mia Hilborn. It is aligned with the competencies and standards necessary to be registered with the UK Board of Healthcare Chaplaincy (UKBHC).

On Tuesday, Mrs Hilborn said that a multifaith training scheme had been under way at the Trust since 2003, initially training a Hindu guru, Buddhist monk, and a Pentecostal. To date, 38 people have been trained.

People from Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, and Buddhist faith backgrounds, and Humanists, are involved in the LSBU course, and also Christians from Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Pentecostal Churches. Students must complete 200 hours of practical chaplaincy, and study a “broad-based theology and philosophy of chaplaincy”, producing a “philosophical or theological basis for what they are doing”. They are also expected to have a “faith supervisor” from their community.

“The idea for the course is that everybody comes to it prepared in their theological or belief system,” Mrs Hilborn said. “Then they have to learn how to be health-care chaplains.”

Dr McCarthy welcomed the course; those trained on it would “attain an important set of skills that will complement those of their hospital colleagues, enabling them to offer spiritual care to many”, he said.

“At the same time, it is essential that religious-care needs are also met. In recent years, spiritual, pastoral, and religious care have been recognised by both NICE and NHS England as being of equal importance in delivering optimal health-care to clients and patients. The religious-care element of holistic care requires NHS Trusts to ensure that provision is made for meeting the needs of those whose spirituality is inextricably part of their religion. This requires chaplains who have been fully trained and endorsed by their religious communities.

“This new course presents a way ahead for complementing, though not replacing, the presence of health-care chaplains that represent particular religious communities.”

Most Anglican chaplains in the NHS are ordained.

“One needs sufficient grounding in Christian theology and church practice, which, for most Anglicans, would come through a theology degree and ministerial formation,” the Revd Mark Burleigh said this week. He is head of chaplaincy and bereavement services at the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, and president of the College of Health Care Chaplains. Being ordained was “not essential”, however.

To join the UKBHC’s register, chaplains must meet a number of conditions, including a qualification relevant to their faith community or belief group, and a postgraduate qualification in health-care chaplaincy. The latter is already available from the University of Glasgow, Cambridge Theological Federation, and Cardiff University. Last month, the register was accredited by the Professional Standards Authority.

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