A survey of 72 hospitals in England and Wales reveals that although more than 54 of them had a dedicated placed of worship for Christians, only four had similar facilities for Buddhists; six for Hindus; four for Jews; 13 for Muslims; five for Sikhs and four for other faith groups. Fourteen hospitals had facilities for gender segregation in prayer areas and 34 had facilities for performing ablution before prayers.
Professor Aziz Sheikh, Professor of Primary Care Research and Development at the University of Edinburgh, with colleagues from hospitals in the Midlands and London and a researcher from the Muslim Council of Britain, undertook the survey of hospitals chosen from all NHS hospital trusts in England and Wales.
He said: "The Human Rights Act 1998 and the Patient's Charter place a legal responsibility on public bodies to ensure the rights of individuals to religious observance. However, concern had been expressed that access to spiritual care in hospitals for those of non-Christian faith is limited, so we carried out this survey. Our findings show comparative disadvantage to non-Christians in relation to access to space for worship, chaplaincy staff and quality of chaplaincy care.
"There does, however, appear to be some signs of progress as shown by recently published Department of Health guidance on developing chaplaincy services that meet the needs of all faith communities. We also take limited encouragement from the finding that nine out of the ten hospitals surveying the quality of chaplaincy care reported to have made attempts to hear the views of non-Christian faith groups. Whilst welcoming these developments, it is likely that multi-faith chaplaincy provision still remains more of a myth than a reality for
Contact: Linda Menzies
University of Edinburgh