Non-Religious Pastoral Support Network now operating in 40% of hospitals

13 December, 2018

Humanists UK is celebrating a year of success for the Non-Religious Pastoral Support Network (NRPSN), which placed humanist pastoral carers in 40% of NHS acute trusts in England and Wales over the course of 2018.

Support for non-religious pastoral support has taken off in recent years, fed by steady demand from hospitals looking to provide equal support for their non-religious patients.

Research has repeatedly shown that exclusive provision of religious chaplaincy acts as a barrier to the non-religious accessing equal levels of care. In 2015, NHS England updated its guidelines to reflect the need for hospitals to treat non-religious patients equally.

Since its founding by Humanists UK, the NRPSN has grown as a professional body, with over 200 highly trained and accredited members across the UK. Humanists UK has also celebrated the placement of several NRPSN members into paid NHS roles, including the appointment of Lindsay van Dijk as the head of a chaplaincy and pastoral care department in Buckinghamshire.

Humanists UK Head of Pastoral Support, Simon O’Donoghue

Over the summer, Humanists UK’s Head of Pastoral Support, Simon O’Donoghue, was elected Chair of the national Network for Pastoral, Spiritual, and Religious Care in Health, the NHS-facing body which brings together non-religious pastoral carers with religious chaplains.

Outside of hospitals, NRPSN members now operate in 20% of prisons, as well as universities and the armed forces. The network is also developing its support provision in crisis response situations and in the wider community.

Celebrating the year of success, Humanists UK Head of Pastoral Support Simon O’Donoghue said:

‘I’m delighted that this year we’ve been able to provide more people with a listening, empathetic person to speak to in times of personal distress and discomfort, and I’m confident we’ll be able to continue expanding this support in the years to come.

‘2018 is the year when non-religious pastoral care firmly came into the mainstream of healthcare practice in the UK. It’s another fantastic example of humanists doing good in the community.’


For further comment, please contact current Head of Pastoral Support Jessica Grace on 020 7324 3069 or at

Training with NRPSN is free for members of Humanists UK and Humanist Society Scotland. For more information about NRPSN and training, see

Other recent news on non-religious pastoral care:

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 community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

The Non-Religious Pastoral Support Network is a network of people who provide non-religious pastoral support across a range of institutional and community settings. We aim to grow our network of accredited non-religious pastoral support providers and foster it as a mutually supportive, professionalised community of practice. We encourage and support our volunteers, whilst engaging with relevant bodies to ensure the equal provision of care for the non-religious throughout the UK.