Faith & belief perspectives


Bahá’ís believe in the fundamental unity of people, religions and God, and actively work towards social justice and world peace, notably through community building activities, focusing on devotion and education. The community is administered by elected councils (Assemblies) at local and national levels. There is no concept of ordination in the Bahá’í teachings and the community has no priests, ministers or prayer leaders and little public ritual. Individuals are responsible for their own spiritual life and development, through prayer, study, reflection, and involvement in the life of the community. Pastoral care is the responsibility of the Assemblies, who may appoint individuals or small teams to take care of the pastoral needs of the community. Chaplaincy is not a ’native’ concept for Bahá’ís.

The geographically widespread nature of the community gives rise to particular challenges when it comes to the provision of healthcare chaplaincy. At national level a small team coordinates the recruitment, training and supervision of Bahá’í chaplains to serve in healthcare settings around the country. The role of Bahá’í healthcare chaplains is to support patients, their families, and staff in their spiritual and religious life, to provide a listening and understanding ear, and, where necessary, to explain the (relatively few) particular needs of Bahá’í patients to medical and administrative staff in the hospital or other healthcare setting. Bahá’í chaplains also help Bahá’í patients maintain links with their home communities. Bahá’ís are very happy working in multi faith and belief contexts and are always willing to have appropriate conversations with patients and staff of all faiths or none.

The Bahá’í community is represented by Sandra Ballester and Barney Leith.

Web link:


BUDDHIST HEALTHCARE CHAPLAINCY GROUP (BHCG) established an endorsing process and an endorsement body inn 2004 for Buddhist Chaplains working across a variety of healthcare settings. BHCG has regularly endorsed applicants since 2012 and provides mentor support, training and supervision for those engaging with healthcare chaplaincy. The Endorsing Body comprises a group of committed individuals with experience of working in hospitals, hospices and in the community supporting those who are struggling through ill health, physical and/or mental. This group meets three times per year, normally on the first Friday of March, July and November. It considers applications for Initial Endorsement, which lasts for two to three years, and Full Endorsement requiring evidence of working and developing as a healthcare chaplain. Full endorsement is renewed every three years thereafter through submission of up-to-date evidence of Continuing Professional Development and reflection upon the Five Chaplaincy Principles. Buddhists, lay or monastic, from across a wide variety of traditions and schools are already engaged with Healthcare Chaplaincy and applicants are welcome from anyone practising with any of the diverse approaches to Buddhist teachings and practices. According to the 2011 census, there are approximately one third of a million Buddhists in the UK, about 80,000 of these being westerners. BHCG is often consulted on questions emerging from how its teachings and practices apply to health and illness, life and death. In recent years the practice of mindfulness meditation has gained much greater public interest and BHCG is happy to advise on questions arising about mindfulness.

Contact: Keith Munnings M: 07931 532006

Church of England

Anglican Chaplains work as part of the multi-disciplinary healthcare team, to help create a healing environment in which the spiritual, religious, cultural, and pastoral needs of individual patients, relatives and staff are recognised, valued and safeguarded. The Church of England has always been prominent in promoting health and social care and being at the heart of the NHS since its start in 1948 is no surprise. Nowadays Anglican Chaplains are involved in all aspects of care, working for the NHS to care for all patients, relatives and staff. Chaplains give support and care in many ways, being alongside those in distress, pain or need, regardless of whatever their personal faith or belief. Our remit is to be a resource for the healthcare team to call upon when needed. Sometimes this is to provide religious/sacramental input but often it is more about pastoral care, or helping to ease the burden carried by nursing and medical staff by working with the emotional and psychological issues presented. The Chaplain’s relationship with patients complements that of other staff, creating a healing therapeutic environment that helps those who are facing difficult treatments or bad news. The Chaplain can smooth over problems created through poor communication by acting as an advocate. Sometimes it is just ‘being there’ with those who are anxious that makes the process of healthcare run more smoothly. Chaplains are a source of information and often pick up all manner of issues and queries which do not sit obviously with any of the other professional disciplines within the hospital.

Revd Canon Julian Hemstock, Head of Spiritual and Pastoral Care, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, 10th October 2013

Free Churches Group

Since the 1880s there have been bodies established to enable the ‘Free Churches’ to have a common voice and public presence. The Declaratory Statement of Faith and Practice from 1917 continues to serve as the basis for membership. In 1940 the Free Church Federal Council was created, bringing together a number of predecessor bodies.

The current Free Churches Group comprises twenty-four denominations, some of whom are also in membership with Churches Together in England.

A public presence is given through the Moderator, who also serves as one of the Presidents of Churches Together in England and links with a number of other key organisations. The three key areas of work at present are Health Care Chaplaincy, Prison Chaplaincy and Education.

Representatives on the Healthcare Chaplaincy Faith and Belief Group are Revd Debbie Hodge and Revd Nigel Goodfellow.

Web link:

Roman Catholic

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales estimates that there are more than 4 million Catholics in England and Wales.

For Catholics, access to the ministry of the Church and in particular, the sacraments, is an essential part of life. Whilst in an ecumenical and inter-faith context, appreciation of other traditions and pastoral support is welcome, there are particular aspects of Catholic faith and practice which can only be met by those who are appropriately trained and mandated to minister by their bishop, and NHS policy and equality legislation recognise and respect this need and right.

The sacrament of Holy Communion can be brought to the sick in hospital by a priest, deacon or, a duly trained lay minister but the sacraments of Penance and the Anointing of the Sick can only be administered by a Catholic priest.

Even those Catholics who may have had little contact with the Church for some time will often request or expect to be visited by a Catholic chaplain whilst in hospital. Many return to the practice of their faith at times of crisis, serious illness or injury.

The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales created a Healthcare Reference Group in 2003 which has recently changed its name to the Health and Social Care Advisory Group to reflect the integration of healthcare and social care in recent years.

The Health and Social Care Advisory Group has clear priorities for action:

  • Building networks with chaplains
  • Developing networks with the wider group of Catholic health and social care workers
  • Mental Health Project
  • Conferences and seminars
  • Publications
  • Social media development to support the work
  • Policy/influencing
  • Small grants programme
  • The articulation of a Catholic spirituality of healthcare in the 21st Century

For more information and to access publications please go to:

April 2014


As with all immigration populations, it has taken 2-3 generations for the British Hindu Community to first find its feet and establish itself economically and to secondly, provide a secure path for its new generations to become educated. Now the task remains to create new mechanisms and processes for the Hindu community to look after its aged, infirm and unwell. Bob Blackman speaking in the House of Commons presented statistics establishing that the Hindu community stood out as being remarkable in its ability to “just get on with it” without looking for handouts and support and that this cultural attitude had resulted in their exceptional success in all spheres of British life. Hopefully this attitude can now be applied by Hindus, to improving the care of patients, whilst in the NHS.

Despite having such a noticeable presence in the Medical and professional population of the NHS, the religious and spiritual needs of Hindus whilst engaging with the NHS as patients, have been significantly overlooked. With the new NHS initiative, which at long last has begun to recognise that a persons well being is dramatically impacted upon by their spiritual and religious health as well as just mental physical health, the NCHT is excited that we will be able to contribute of our ancient spiritual and religious traditions to the human beings who make up the NHS. Whether Hindus or non Hindus, patients or professionals, the “NHS – NCHT Hindu Chaplaincy” partnership is one which we hope will generate dramatic benefits to all sectors of the nations health and we look forward to the journey with great hopes and anticipation.

As the National Hindu Chaplaincy Governing Body in this sector, the NCHT will continue to improve and expand its network of Hindu Chaplains (Hindu Sahayaks) and further develop its infrastructure to help support the NHS in achieving a better set of health outcomes for many years to come.





Jewish Visiting (formerly known as Jewish Visitation) was established in 1875 to provide chaplaincy services to Jewish patients in hospitals in London and the surrounding areas. Our aim is to extend these services to the Jewish community in the rest of England. The service is run by the United Synagogue, but it is a cross-communal service covering all sections of the Jewish community, available to anyone who says they are Jewish. We also provide information to hospital staff on Jewish laws and practice.

Jewish Visiting, with its Senior Hospital Chaplain, organises the recruitment, selection, training and development, mentoring and support and authorisation of Jewish Chaplains and visitors. We maintain a list of chaplains who have been authorised to provide services to the NHS and provide a contact point that patients and/or their families can use to request a visit or advice.

Jewish Chaplains work with colleagues of other faiths in chaplaincy teams to complement the work of the multi-disciplinary healthcare team.  We try to meet the spiritual, religious, cultural, and pastoral needs of individual patients together with their relatives as well as staff. This may include advocating on behalf of patients and providing information on support available outside the hospital, where appropriate. We provide booklets with Jewish prayers for healing

We also prioritise providing information to hospital staff on caring for Jewish patients in relation to areas such as Jewish medical/ethical issues, basic rules on the Sabbath and Jewish festivals, Jewish dietary laws,  the needs of terminal patients and what to do when a Jewish patient dies.

Contact: E-mail – or telephone 020 8343 6238

Website – (a new website is currently being developed)



The UK Sikh Healthcare chaplaincy group (UK SHCG) was formed in 2005 to help support the delivery of NHS chaplaincy services for the Sikh community. It is a registered charity operating from head offices in London. The trustees are from a wide range of backgrounds but all are either trained or current volunteers associated with chaplaincy services.

UK SHCG provides services, Sikh specific training for healthcare chaplains and guidance on issues concerning the care of Sikh patients. These services are also given to the Sikh community, chaplaincy departments across the NHS, within hospices and anywhere where there is demand. We also provide information and leaflets on “how to care for a Sikh patient” and Sikh Prayer Books free of charge, at request.

Our Annual Sikh Chaplaincy Prayer Day near to Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s birthday (usually in November) has helped us focus on the well-being of patients of ALL faiths, chaplaincy teams and the NHS to become more aware and understanding of their local Sikh Community.

We are the representative body of the authorisation process and maintain the National Register of Sikh healthcare chaplains in line with the recommendations of the UK Healthcare Chaplaincy Faith and Belief Group (HCFBG).

Representatives on the HCFBG are: Sital Singh Maan and Harinder Singh Mann/ Parminder Kaur Kondral

Web link: 

Non-religious perspective

Non religious people may typically think for themselves about what is right and wrong, based on reason and respect for others; find meaning, beauty and joy in the one life we have, without the need for an afterlife; look to science instead of religion as the best way to discover and understand the world and believe people can use empathy and compassion to make the world a better place for everyone.

They are the biggest ‘religion and belief’ group after Christians. About 20-45% of hospital patients are non-religious. Non-religious patients may face the same fears, hopes, anguish, questions of meaning and purpose, sense of loss and bereavement as religious patients. After all they are part of our common humanity. Such patients may not identify these issues as ‘religious’ or ‘spiritual’. However, they may need and want appropriate care and support. Just as a Christian or Muslim may sometimes want that support from another Christian or Muslim so a non-religious patient may want support from a non-religious person. The NHS aims to provide holistic care to all patients irrespective of their religion or belief. Non-religious patients, staff and carers should have the same access to care as religious patients and non-religious people should have the same opportunities to provide it.

The Non-religious Pastoral Support Network aims to encourage the NHS to be much more proactive in getting humanists and like-minded non-religious people to become full members of the NHS teams providing holistic care. It also aims to provide training so that  suitable non-religious people will have the confidence and understanding to apply for voluntary pastoral care roles in the healthcare sector.

Our observer on the Healthcare Chaplaincy Faith and Belief Group is Dr David Savage. Contact:

Perspectives from the Chaplaincy bodies

College of Healthcare Chaplains

The College of Health Care Chaplains is a multi-faith, interdenominational, professional organisation. It is open to all recognised healthcare Chaplaincy staff, both paid and voluntary, and to those with an interest in healthcare Chaplaincy.

The College exists to promote the professional standing of healthcare Chaplaincy and that of its members both nationally and within health and social care organisations.

The College is represented on the HCFBG by Revd Mark Burleigh.