A study of an NHS Chaplaincy service: A mixed methods study of patients' and staff experience of NHS chaplaincy

Elizabeth Allison , Chris Swift, Michelle Briggs

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


Drawing predominantly on qualitative methodology, this thesis demonstrates that healthcare chaplains have a unique role in contemporary health systems. Underpinned by interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA), the research is unique in its contribution in ascertaining not only the views of those accessing chaplaincy services (n=10), but also staff (n=7) and those declining the opportunity to access a chaplain (n=10).The study adopted a sequential research design. Phase one of the study mapped the users of an acute chaplaincy service in an NHS trust in the north of England by collecting monitoring data, undertaking a retrospective database review of patient records and conducting semi-structured interviews with staff. In phase two semi-structured interviews were conducted with patients who accepted chaplaincy provision and those who declined. Extensive reflexive consideration was given throughout, given the researchers role as a healthcare chaplain working in the NHS.

The data showed that chaplains provide religious, pastoral and spiritual care and support to patients, families and staff through visiting, delivering training, conducting religious rituals and provision of prayer rooms. Patients accessed the service for religious support which was reported to contribute to their own sense of well-being. Those patients who declined the service often did so due to the timing of the offer, having their own resources to cope and a lack of awareness of the chaplaincy service. Chaplains were perceived as being religious but available to all, with strong interpersonal skills, who are impartial and have a distinct knowledge base and experience. Drawing on theoretical frameworks to support data interpretation, such as boundary spanners, this thesis offers clear implications for policy, practice and theory development. The thesis suggests that a reconfiguration of chaplaincy should be considered in health services to support all constituents of the hospital setting regardless of their religious affiliation.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Leeds Beckett University
  • Briggs, Michelle, Supervisor
  • Swift , Chris, Supervisor, External person
Award date1 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2020


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