Bishop Nick has spent a day at St James’s University Hospital and Leeds General Infirmary finding out about the work of the chaplaincy team, which is one of the biggest in the country.
Head of Chaplaincy for the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, the Revd Chris Swift, says, “The chaplaincy service aims to ensure that patients who require spiritual care receive appropriate attention. That includes the ritual and sacramental requirements of those who belong to a faith, but our work also goes beyond that, because everyone has hopes and fears and therefore pastoral and spiritual needs of some kind. People come from all over the region, sometimes on their own, and when there’s a lot of waiting around and a lot of time to think, many value having someone to talk to.”
Bishop Nick says, “Hospitals can be places of anxiety where people are often brought face-to-face with questions of life and death, so the pastoral and spiritual care offered by the chaplains and volunteers to patients and relatives is a vital service. I’m impressed by their professionalism and humanity and by the Trust’s commitment to the provision of such care.”
The team has 7.5 full-time chaplains (including Christians, Jews, Muslims and Sikhs) and they are helped by around 50 volunteers. Their work can range from conducting baptisms and funerals to visiting patients on the wards or supporting parents while their child is undergoing an operation.
The chaplains are also there for hospital staff. Chris says, “They may have ethical concerns arising from their work or need support during harrowing episodes of care. They also often feel the deaths of patients keenly; in fact, nurses have sometimes been called disenfranchised mourners, that is, they may have been with a patient in the last weeks of their life, but don’t go to the funeral. So the support of staff is an important part of what we do.”
The chaplaincy service is looking for more volunteers. If you think you can help, please contact The Revd Chris Swift - chris.swift [at] nhs.net
Below - Bishop Nick with the Revd Chris Swift reading the prayer requests in the hospital chapel.