NHS Chaplaincy Programme

What is healthcare chaplaincy?

Chaplains promote pastoral, spiritual and religious wellbeing through skilled compassionate person-centred care. This is available to our patients, their families and carers, and to NHS staff, volunteers and students. They enable people to celebrate according to their religion or belief within NHS settings, and support those facing very difficult situations such as the death of a loved one, psychosis, being diagnosed with life-threatening conditions, and people who are receiving end of life care.

NHS England chaplaincy guidelines

These Chaplaincy guidelines have been prepared with support from a wide range of stakeholders and patient representatives. They provide a best practice guide for those managing healthcare chaplaincy services in NHS providers, and replace the guidelines published in 2015.

The new guidelines respond to changes in the NHS, society, and the widening understanding of spiritual, religious, and pastoral care. In the light of the 2010 Equality Act new guidance is provided for the care of patients and service users whatever their religion or belief.

The implementation of this guidance will improve support for patients, carers, family members, volunteers, and other people accessing NHS services and staff across the health service.

View and download a copy of: NHS Chaplaincy – guidelines for NHS managers on pastoral, spiritual and religious care

NHS England chaplaincy guidelines 2023: equality analysis

The Equality Analysis of the NHS Chaplaincy Guidelines ensures compliance with the Equality Act 2010 and the Public Sector Equality Duty, ensuring due regard to advancing equality for people on the basis of certain protected characteristics, including religion or belief.

View and download a copy of: NHS England chaplaincy guidelines 2023: equality analysis

Information governance: NHS Chaplaincy and non-religious pastoral support

When NHS England published the “NHS Chaplaincy Guidelines in 2015: Promoting Excellence in Pastoral, Spiritual and Religious Care” the original guidance document committed to develop further guidance on the information governance issues that was highlighted.

This document is a result of that process and is intended to complement the 2015 guidelines by providing a clarification guidance on the information governance to address the long-standing issues of chaplains’ access to patient records.

View and download a copy of: Information governance: NHS Chaplaincy and non-religious pastoral support

Independent quality mark for healthcare chaplains

The UK Board of Healthcare Chaplaincy’s (UKBHC) register has been accredited by the The Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care is an independent statutory body, accountable to Parliament. It has accredited the register of the UK Board of Healthcare Chaplaincy’s (UKBHC), providing a quality mark which can be displayed by chaplains who have met its required standard.

Healthcare Chaplaincy Forum

In September 2013, the Healthcare Chaplaincy Forum (previously Chaplaincy Leaders Forum) was developed as an effective mechanism for dialogue between NHS England, and the wider chaplaincy associations listed below:

  • Association of Chaplaincy in General Practice. Works to clarify the distinctive features of primary care chaplaincy and to develop the training, standards, and accreditation for the effective delivery of chaplaincy in General Practice.
  • Association of Hospice and Palliative Care Chaplains. Seeks to 1) identify and promote good practice, 2) be an agent of professional development, 3) provide professional support and fellowship, 4) promote links with the constituency of palliative care and 5) promote links with relevant faith and belief communities.
  • College of Health Care Chaplains. Provides both professional and union support to Chaplains in the workplace; enables national engagement around terms and conditions with employers; raises concerns from the workplace for the profession. CHCC is a professional association within Unite the Union.
  • Network for Pastoral, Spiritual and Religious Care in Health. “The Network” brings together representatives from a wide variety of religions and beliefs to work together to promote and support diversity and inclusion in high quality healthcare chaplaincy. It works across the NHS and other healthcare settings in England.
  • UK Board of Healthcare Chaplaincy. The primary aim of the UKBHC is the safety and wellbeing of the public which it achieves through its work concerning professional standards and standards in chaplaincy education and authorization/regulation. The UKBHC holds a voluntary register of healthcare chaplains which, since 2017, has been recognised as an accredited register by the Professional Standards Authority.

The Forum aims to contribute to better outcomes and experiences in England for:

  • healthcare services, staff and all individuals supported by healthcare chaplaincy
  • those providing pastoral, spiritual, and religious care within healthcare services

The Forum was represented in the re-write of the Chaplaincy guidelines.

The Healthcare Chaplaincy Forum meets quarterly, with an independent chair. The current Independent Chair is Mark Newitt. Mark may be contacted on independent.chair@chaplaincyforum.uk.

Additional resources

Network for Pastoral, Spiritual and Religious Care in Health have published the following resources to aid in recruitment of chaplains.

The Chaplaincy bodies sitting on the Healthcare Chaplaincy Forum have produced additional guidance on chaplaincy staffing ratios to complement NHS England’s Chaplaincy guidance.