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RCGP cautiously endorses chaplains in GP practices

Practices can hire chaplains to provide ‘religious support’ for patients, the RCGP has said.

This comes as GPs at a practice in Birmingham are referring patients to an in-house chaplain for patients needing help with more than psychological and social issues.

The RCGP said it doesn't fully endorse practice-based chaplaincy but understands that there is more to a patient's physical health, and as such, GPs should take into account a patient's religious and spiritual beliefs.

Karis Medical Centre in Birmingham, which serves just over 14,000 patients, has acquired funding from Birmingham and Solihull CCG to host a chaplain in-house through its PMS contract.

A spokesperson for NHS Birmingham and Solihull CCG said: 'We understand that Karis Medical Centre currently funds a chaplain, through its PMS contract. This would have been a decision made by the former primary care trust. All PMS contracts are currently being reviewed by the CCG.'

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said spirituality and religion 'could have a relevance' to GPs diagnosing and treating patients' pain.

She said: ‘GPs understand that there is considerably more to a patient’s health than just physical factors, which is why we always endeavour to take into account any psychological and social issues – which may include a person’s religious and spiritual beliefs - that could have relevance to their health, when making a diagnosis and developing a treatment plan.

‘But GPs and our teams, in the vast majority of cases, are not trained religious leaders and it would be inappropriate for patients to expect comprehensive spiritual support from us.

‘Some patients would find offers of religious support from their healthcare professional offensive, and the General Medical Council offers doctors specific advice in this area.'

Professor Stokes-Lampard added that for many people, the support from religious leaders 'can be beneficial' to the patients who might have an underlying reason for visiting their GP.

‘We do understand that that for many people with specific religious or spiritual beliefs, the support and comfort they receive from their religious leaders and networks can be beneficial, particularly when they are ill or vulnerable – and we have heard of some successful and popular examples whereby GP practices are based at the same site as multi-faith chapels and similar spaces for their patients to attend for spiritual reflection and support.

‘We also know that the underlying reason a person visits the GP might not be medical – for example, they might be lonely, and this in turn might be impacting on their physical and mental health and wellbeing. For people in these situations who have a religious belief, or seek support from religion, a community group based around their religion, could really help.’

The news follows three GPs announcing they are standing to be the next RCGP chair replacing Professor Stokes-Lampard in November.

In addition, RCGP has recently said it will consult its 53,000 members for their stance on assisted dying.

Readers' comments (22)

  • Desperate times call for desperate measures.

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  • Be better off setting an in-house coffee morning for group lonlieness, not a sky-pilot.

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  • Why not? These days when you come to see the doctor you get anyone except the doctor. Noctors, wellbeing, social prescribers, chaplins, someone with a tie, what next? This is "progression".

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  • Imagine you wanting a plumber to fix a leak and you get anyone but a plumber and perhaps asking you to download an APP too as it is now in vogue. The leak just keeps leaking.

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  • Wasn't there a case where a GP was almost struck off for sharing religious beliefs and a Nurse was actually struck off for giving a Bible????
    GMC and RCGP contradicting each other or at loggerheads????

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  • isn't this discrimination against those who don't believe in any form of religion or god based theocracy - why not give me the money for a pay rise so i stay employed as a GP for a bit longer. That would pay for all the spirits i need thanks very much.

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  • Cobblers

    Unscepted 10:51am

    Google Dr Richard Scott 2012.

    Don't laugh the GMC are trying to have another go at him now, courtesy of the Secular Society!!

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  • Some much needed redemption from satanic influences and demonic thinking/behaviours might actually be a very welcome thing for a lot of the people I happen to see on a daily basis. One could say that the devil has done his work in many a british community

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  • David Banner

    I don’t know how much this CCG is paying for the chaplaincy service, but presumably they feel it is value for money.
    If local provision for social counselling is poor, this could represent a cheaper in-house service, assuming they see anyone regardless of religious belief (or lack of it) and provide comfort/support without bible-bashing (unless the patient wants it).
    This could be a valuable asset in (e.g.) palliative care.
    It would be fascinating to hear from Birmingham GPs using chaplains to find out first hand if it’s working or not.

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  • I work sessions in a hospice where a spiritual history and involvement of "pastoral care" is the norm. The members of our pastoral care team are diverse and make an invaluable contribution to the care of patients of all faiths and none whatever the particular personal faith of the chaplain. It makes a difference not only to comfort at the end of life but also to the experience of many physical symptoms over the now often chronic disease trajectory of cancer as well as other diseases. To ignore or scorn this aspect of our patients health and wellbeing is to fundamentally misunderstand the reality of the human experience of physical health, and therefore make us lesser doctors.

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