First humanist head of an NHS Chaplaincy and Pastoral Support team

9 April, 2018

The first humanist to head a Chaplaincy and Pastoral Support team in the NHS has been appointed. Lindsay van Dijk is the new Head of Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust’s team and Humanists UK has hailed her appointment as a positive reflection of the growing inclusivity of NHS trusts in their approach to providing religious, spiritual, and pastoral care.

Lindsay is a member of the Board of the Non-Religious Pastoral Support Network, the network of non-religious pastoral carers administered by Humanists UK, is the Network’s Quality Assurance Officer, and also mentors other humanist pastoral carers. She holds a BA and MA in humanist pastoral care from the University of Humanistic Studies in the Netherlands and is currently studying for a PhD on humanist pastoral care. She has previously worked at the Humanist Community at Harvard as a humanist pastoral carer, held posts in a hospice and nursing home for elderly patients with advanced Alzheimer’s disease, and worked as a humanist pastoral carer at a UK secondary school. She is a member of the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy (BACP) and of the British Association for the Person-Centered Approach (BAPCA) and is accredited by the UK Board of Healthcare Chaplaincy (UKBHC).

At Buckinghamshire, she has joined a world-renowned Trust, home to the National Spinal Injuries Centre. She will oversee a team of three paid Christian chaplains and 24 volunteers across Stoke Mandeville Hospital, High Wycombe Hospital, and five community hospitals.

The Non-Religious Pastoral Support Network now has staff or volunteers in over a quarter of NHS Trusts. In 2015, NHS England published new national guidance which for the first time obliged NHS bodies to provide pastoral care to non-religious people on the same basis as chaplaincy is provided to the religious. This was followed in 2016 by Jane Flint being employed as the first humanist pastoral carer in the NHS, as part of University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, and Humanists UK hiring a full-time Head of Pastoral Support in Simon O’Donoghue. In 2017 Paul Noble became the second paid humanist pastoral carer in the NHS, in University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust. Lindsay is the third such appointment.

Research conducted last summer by YouGov for Humanists UK shows widespread demand for the provision of non-religious pastoral care, as well as majority support for its introduction.

Welcoming the appointment, Humanists UK Head of Pastoral Support Simon O’Donoghue commented, ‘We are delighted to see Lindsay van Dijk be appointed as the first humanist to head an NHS Chaplaincy and Pastoral Support team. This is significant recognition of how far the NRPSN has come and how much NHS Trusts are now recognising that non-religious people often need support from like-minded pastoral carers, just as religious people can need such support from people of their own religion. We commend Bucks NHS Trust in being the first to take such a significant step.’

On her appointment, Lindsay van Dijk commented, ‘I am delighted to have been appointed to lead Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust’s Chaplaincy and Pastoral Support team and look forward to working with our multi-faith and belief team. Together, I know we can ensure people are able to receive the spiritual, pastoral, and religious care that is right for them.’


For further comment or information contact Richy Thompson, Director of Public Affairs and Policy at or 020 7324 3072.

Press are free to use this photo of Lindsay van Dijk:

Humanists UK works for an end to irrelevant religious discrimination in publicly funded posts such as general pastoral support jobs in hospitals and elsewhere, which are often unfairly reserved only for religious people or people of certain religions, and for equal treatment of the non-religious according to need in the limited number of settings where belief-specific services are legitimately provided, including hospitals. Its research shows that the term ‘chaplain’ is generally understood to be one that exclusively applies to Christians, and this can be a barrier to non-religious people in accessing non-religious pastoral support. For this reason it uses the more descriptive terms ‘pastoral support’ and ‘pastoral care’ to describe its work.

Read more about our provision of non-religious pastoral support:


Read more about our campaigns work on chaplaincy and pastoral support:

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and campaigning work, we’re committed to creating a fair and equal society for all.