The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

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First non-religious Leeds chaplain to open doors for patients in need

Hospital chaplaincy services provide seriously ill patients and their families with emotional and spiritual support in some of the deepest, darkest hours of bereavement and diagnosis.

In Leeds there are a handful of chaplains covering all faiths from differing schools of Christianity to Hinduism and Judaism, but not everyone identifies with a religion.

Retired consultant radiologist Dr Bob Bury, who spent 22 years at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust (LTH), is now hoping to ensure patients who don’t associate with a religion have a source of support as the trust’s first humanist chaplain.

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Dr Bob Bury, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust's first Humanist Chaplain, with trust chief executive Julian Hartley.

Dr Bury said: “You don’t go in talking to patients with solutions, you go in empty handed and sit down and listen and talk to them and help with whatever’s worrying them. It’s a privilege for people to invite you into their lives.”

“At present all spiritual care comes from religious people. They are good people and practice general chaplaincy and see and help and talk to people of all religions and none,” he said. “But because it’s seen as a religious thing many patients won’t ask for a chaplain and would assume they would get a vicar to pray with them. There needs to be other options.”

Set to start working voluntarily in the hospital imminently, he will serve a day’s worth of hours each week and has already started work on a project to cater better to non-religious parents who experience still birth.

Rev Chris Swift, head of chaplaincy at LTH, believes the move to appoint a humanist chaplain is the next stage of the “evolution” of the service. He added: “Hospitals have a duty to provide pastoral and spiritual support for all patients who seek it, not just to those with an identified religious affiliation.”