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Hospital Chaplains

Hospital Chaplains have a responsibility both to the secular (hospital) and religious (Bishop) authorities. They should seek to be a bridge between them. Each Area has a Bishop’s Adviser in Healthcare Chaplaincy who advises the Bishop on chaplaincy matters.

1. Liaison with Parishes

If chaplaincy is to function well there needs to be as full liaison as possible between the two worlds of hospital and church. Principally this calls for co-operation between the parish priest and the hospital chaplain. It is a matter of courtesy that parish priests should inform chaplains if they are visiting and if any of their parishioners need pastoral and religious support from the chaplaincy team.

It is normally the chaplain’s role to administer the sacraments to patients, but in some circumstances it may be pastorally appropriate for the parish clergy to do so. If this is to happen, the chaplain should always be informed, preferably beforehand.

Hospital chaplains are bound by a hospital’s conditions of confidentiality and cannot give information to local clergy without the permission of the patients concerned. However, whenever possible, they will seek to obtain that permission and so keep those patients in touch with their parishes.

Any clergy visiting the hospital should abide by the ward visiting hours unless they have been given permission to visit outside those times by a senior nurse on the ward concerned. If necessary, the chaplain can liaise with the ward on the parish priest’s behalf. If permission is given parish clergy should always advise the senior nurse when they arrive on the ward.

Any visiting clergy must abide by the infection control procedures of the trust concerned. The chaplain will be able to give guidance on this.

2. Administration of the Sacraments

Sacraments should only be administered in the hospital by the ordained clergy or by laity with the Bishop’s permission. Commissioned lay chaplains are given Episcopal permission to distribute Holy Communion from the reserved Sacrament. This is renewed, after review, every three years.

Certain functions of chaplaincy (e.g. celebration of the Eucharist, Anointing the Sick, etc.) are the responsibility of the ordained chaplain only.

It is customary in some hospitals for the Church of England chaplain to administer the Sacraments to members of other churches with whom we are in communion. This should only be done in co-operation with the chaplains of those other denominations. Any crossing of denominational boundaries should be with the full agreement and understanding of the patient and relevant hospital chaplain.

3. Ecumenical and Inter Faith Co-operation

In many hospitals and NHS Trusts the chaplaincy operates in an ecumenical and multi-faith context. Anglican Hospital Chaplains are encouraged to work closely with the chaplains of other Christian denominations as well as representatives of other faith communities. The Anglican chaplain may be asked to develop a multi-faith approach within the hospital and advice about inter faith matters can be obtained from the Area Bishop’s Inter Faith Adviser.

The Multi-Faith Group for Healthcare Chaplaincy was established in 2003:

  • Chief Officer: The Revd Edward Lewis – 020 7898 1892 chief.officer@nullmfghc.com
  • Chairman: Mr Manhar Mehta chief.office@nullmfghc.com

4. The College of Health Care Chaplains

The College of Health Care Chaplains is a professional body, open to all accredited chaplains, whatever their denomination or faith, and can give advice on professional matters. It is an autonomous section of the MSF Trade Union. It may be contacted via:

The Revd William Sharpe
129 Theobald’s Road
London WC1X 8NT
Tel: 020 3371 2004 or 07816 457343.

5. Enquiries about Chaplaincy and Training Courses for Chaplaincy

Enquiries about chaplaincy may be made to:

Hospital Chaplaincies Council
Church House
Great Smith Street
London SW1P 3NZ
Tel 020 7898 1892

Enquiries about training courses for chaplaincy should be directed to:

The Assistant Training & Development Officer
Address as above
Tel 020 7898 1895

6. Appointment Process for Hospital Chaplaincy Posts

There are national regulations regarding the advertising and appointment process for hospital chaplains. These can be found at www.nhs-chaplaincy.spiritualcare.org.uk.

Anyone wishing to establish a new chaplaincy post or advertise a vacant post should contact the relevant Bishop’s Adviser in Healthcare Chaplaincy in the first instance.

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