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Providing spiritual care in the NHS

Tuesday, 25 August, 2020
Providing spiritual care in the NHS

Chris Clinch is a full time NHS Chaplain working at Northumbria Healthcare and in this new blog he explains a bit about the role and how the recent pandemic has impacted on his work.


Providing spiritual care during a pandemic was a challenge that the Trust’s Chaplaincy team were not expecting but, like so many other departments, our Chaplains have learnt to adapt and develop new ways of working.


“So much of our work is in referrals for bedside ministry and it has been important to maintain that throughout the pandemic,” explains Chris.


“There have been some limitations for some Chaplains because of their own or their family having health issues, but we have always been available 24/7 to support patients, their relatives and staff.”


“Initially, the emphasis was on how we could do things best. We set up a phone-line for patient and staff support, used iPads to speak and pray with patients, produced lots of resources to share and changed our patterns of working to make sure we could always respond.


“Everyone was anxious, some even scared, and Chaplains spent a long time listening attentively to people’s fears.”


As time moved on during the COVID-19 crisis the team started to notice a change in the needs of people.


“We are aware of the spiritual suffering caused by isolation or loneliness, and the vulnerability that has been caused by this pandemic. Patients were really struggling with not being able to see any visitors and the long-term nature of the pandemic, even when they had not caught it themselves.


“Patients that were often already living lonely lives, have lost physical contact and the emotional support which was so important to them.  Moreover, people are now being admitted who probably would have been seen earlier if it hadn’t been for COVID-19, with all the consequences that brings.”


Another member of the team, Stephen Watson, explains: ‘’The last three months have seen many patients, their families as well as colleagues, face new daily challenges because of Government safety guidelines, ‘shielding’, and the very unpredictable nature of this situation. Chaplaincy contacts have become more frequent with colleagues and relatives, as well as inpatients. Many have commented that the Chaplains’ presence and availability, as one person put it, is ‘very reassuring in these troubled times.’’


The pandemic has made many of us think about our own mortality in a much deeper way than usual. Recent experiences have often led to the Chaplains sharing some ‘sacred’ conversations in hospital corridors, waiting areas, and at the bedside.


“COVID-19 has made me realise more than ever what a real privilege it is to be an NHS Chaplain.’’


Our Chaplaincy team are here to help you whether you are a patient, visitor, staff or volunteer, to offer support to everyone irrespective of faith or belief. They provide confidential comfort and support in difficult times, such as living with illness, facing bereavement or life pressures.


They are available to people of all faiths or none offering bedside communion, prayers, anointing and links to a range of faith communities.


Click here to find out more here.