Chaplaincy and the NHS staff experience

Staff talking

Religious diversity in the workplace can bring substantial benefits in the form of diversity of thought, thinking and intelligence that staff can share to help organisations understand the ever-diverse population they service.

Managing religious diversity in the workplace, however, can be challenging from a human resources perspective. Tolerance and acceptance of religious views is vital, as well as being able to accommodate those who may need extra time off or may have needs that are dictated by their religious preference.

At the same time the NHS has a growing number of chaplains from a multi-faith background whose role is to help steer NHS organisations, often working closely with HR colleagues to help deliver a workplace that is enriched by its diversity.

The following suite of resources have been put together to help NHS chaplains manage religious diversity within the workplace. This varies from general advice and guidance, to include projects being undertaken by NHS Employers involving NHS trusts.

General advice and support

  • NHS England in 2015 produced a set of guidelines to help support spiritual care within the NHS and encourage NHS trusts to emphasise its value for staff and patient wellbeing.
  • Acas has published guidance and similarly the Equality Human Rights Commission (EHRC) on religion and belief to help support organisations and their staff that have a particular religion, belief or those that don't hold any beliefs. The guidance offers employers essential advice on how to comply with the Equalities Act, which protects employees against discrimination based on religion and belief.
  • Healthcare Chaplaincy Faith and Belief Group (HCFBG) includes all nine world faith groups. It works to facilitate a mutual understanding and support for chaplaincy among faith and belief communities, chaplaincy bodies and other providers of religious, spiritual and pastoral care within the NHS.
  • The College of Health Care Chaplains is a professional organisation for chaplains and pastoral carers of all faith and belief groups. 
  • Association of Hospice and Palliative Care Chaplains (AHPCC)  recognises the role hospital chaplains have in supporting patients and their families in end of life care scenarios. 
  • The UK Board of Health Care Chaplains (UKBHC) is a national professional body that supports the work and training of healthcare chaplains.
  • Religion, Belief and Culture in our Community is a booklet from South Lakeland Equality and Diversity Partnership, looking at understanding, respecting and valuing the diverse communities of the United Kingdom.

Research and practice

  • Faith Action is a national network of faith and community-based organisations involved in social action. They have summarised key research evidence on the relationship between faith and health, and the role of faith communities in improving health and reducing health inequalities.
  • The think tank Theos has shared a number of studies  that have shown that regular participation in group spiritual activity is often associated with aspects of wellbeing.
  • National data summarised by the Equality and Human Rights Commission suggests that people from some faith-based groups in England are more likely to report bad physical or mental health but are less likely to smoke or drink excessively compared with people who have no religion.
  • Religion or belief in the workplace and service delivery, a report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission  highlights the direct and personal experiences of employees and service users concerning religion or belief, as well as the views of employers and service providers.
  • The Network for Pastoral, Spiritual and Religious Care in Health (NPSRCH) has published Fit for the Twenty-First Century? which addresses the state of inclusion and chaplaincy services within acute hospitals.
  • The University of Surrey has published a report Religious Identity and Working in the NHS which looks at the interplay between religion and belief and working in the NHS.

Recent projects 

Several projects around religious diversity are currently in progress, these include:

  • A review of the NHS Chaplaincy Guidelines (2015)
    NHS Employers undertook a review of these guidelines and gathered feedback from NHS trusts and other key stakeholders to produce a series of recommendations to help support the rewrite of the guidelines in future.
  • An introduction to equality and diversity in healthcare chaplaincy and an assessment tool for NHS chaplaincy department
    These resources have been developed with support from NHS England, Simon O'Donoghue - head of pastoral support, Humanist UK; Professor Jim McManus - specialist in public heath; Mark Burleigh - College of Healthcare Chaplains (CHCC) and Tim Couchman - equality lead, United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust. They include:

  • Out-of-areas chaplaincy provision for minority faith patients 
    This project involves working with several NHS organisations to address the challenge of providing a service to minority faith group members, the following report outlines the key findings of this report.  

  • LGBT, faith and marginalisation
    This initiative worked with LGBT groups with an expertise in addressing the impact of faith, sexuality, marginalisation and access to healthcare. A report was produced that captures the key lessons for the NHS to consider.

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