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North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust - 70 years of the NHS


Home > News > Chaplains offering the personal touch at North Cumbria's hospitals

Chaplains offering the personal touch at North Cumbria's hospitals

Posted on Friday 5th October 2012

The Revd Judy Evans, second right, with the Revd Charles McWilliams, right, and chaplaincy volunteers

The hospital chaplains at the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle and West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven are working hard to offer a listening ear and support to patients, relatives and staff.

The chaplains’ unique roles in the Trust are not just to meet people’s religious needs as Reverend Judy Evans, chaplain at West Cumberland Hospital explains: “Everyone has spiritual needs, they may not all be religious. Chatting to me is an opportunity for patients and their visitors to talk about how they are coping. Being a good listener is really important. People have more time to sit and think in hospital and molehills can become mountains very quickly.”

As a former nurse, Reverend Judy Evans is very familiar with working in a hospital, having been a staff nurse and ward sister all over the country, moving with her husband who was in the Navy. After having children and moving to London, Judy left nursing and began to look for a new challenge. “I have always had an active faith – the nursing was part of working out my faith.” She was ordained in 2002 and moved to Cumbria in 2006 to take up the post of hospital chaplain at West Cumberland Hospital. Judy’s time is split between that role and being parish priest for Kells in Whitehaven. Working alongside Judy is fellow chaplain Charles McWilliams, Father Edmund Gornall (Roman Catholic chaplain) and a team of volunteers.

Anne Roberts started full-time as Ecumenical Chaplain at the Cumberland Infirmary in May 2011 after moving to Cumbria. Anne was ordained as a Church of England Minister in 1996 and started as a hospital chaplain straight away in Shrewsbury and then Oswestry. Anne works alongside Father Jim Allen who is part-time Roman Catholic Chaplain and also Parish Priest of St Bede’s, Wigton Rd. Fr Jim, as he is known, has been a priest for over forty years, and has served in the Royal Navy/Royal Marines for twelve years as a Catholic chaplain between 1978 and 1990.

“The role of a chaplain involves giving patients, relatives and staff time… simply being available and willing to listen to them”, Anne explains. “If you are in hospital, all of your ‘norms’ have gone and emotions can come to the surface. People may be facing loss, uncertainty or pain and whereas some prefer to deal with their fears on their own, others may want to articulate them. Chaplains offer spiritual care, which is always patient-led and will therefore vary from person to person. For some it will involve religious ritual such as prayer, for many it is more about trying to make sense of their particular journey. We have a shared responsibility, along with all the healthcare professionals, to meet the spiritual needs of people of all faiths, or none, and we can call people in if necessary.”

There are 22 chaplaincy volunteers from local churches of all denominations who visit on the wards in the Infirmary every week and make referrals. For emergencies, a Chaplain is available 24 hours a day. Every Sunday at 10.30am there is an informal short service in the Chapel and everyone is welcome. Prayers for Muslim staff and patients take place at 1.15pm every Friday. The Chapel is open all day and night and is a quiet space within a busy community.

When asked what the best part of her job is, Anne replied: “I like the fact that no two days are the same; I have to see what emerges and I meet some amazing people. It is a privilege to offer hope and comfort to people who feel scared and lonely.”