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Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust Chaplaincy team won two awards at the recent ‘Champions of Care: Celebrating Success’ Trust awards evening.   

The team were crowned ‘Non-Clinical Team of the Year’ and were ‘Highly Commended’ for the Chairman’s Award, making them runners-up to the ‘Champion of Champions of Care’; an award which went to their colleagues in Critical Care.  

Their success has since been welcomed by the Trust’s Head of Patient Experience, Eleanor Walsh and the Bishop of Lancaster, Rt Rev Dr Jill Duff.  

The Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care Department at Blackpool-based Trust is a team of staff and volunteers led by the Rev. Ian Baxter (Baptist) who is Team Lead. 

Ian is supported by Rev Clive Lord, Rev Helen Houston and Rev Paul Berry (Church of England); Father Andrew Dawson and Patrick Hynes (Catholic), Imam Ashfaq Rafiq Patel (Muslim) and Rev Jim Williams (United Reform Church, URC).  

During the worst spell of the pandemic the Chaplaincy Team were also supported by the Rev Dr Susan Salt and Martin McDonald (both CofE), who joined the staff team for a while. 

Rev Helen Houston said today: “In an often-secular world it’s lovely to see the value placed on the religious and spiritual care of our patients by our Trust. We’re very grateful for Rev Ian’s leadership which has helped to put Chaplaincy in this position.

“We also have a number of volunteers from churches of different denominations across Blackpool who have supported the Chaplaincy through the pandemic by prayer, telephone calls, cards, texts, emails, and - hospital policy allowing – visiting the wards themselves. 

“We have been grateful too, for the prayers and good wishes of a number of Blackpool and Fylde Primary Schools, as well as those of the Blackpool Madrasah; all of which have sustained us in some very difficult times.” 

The Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care Department was originally founded by hospital staff members and volunteers and relied on the goodwill of local church leaders to provide religious cover.  

The first full-time chaplain was the Rev Jessica Turner who helped to design and develop the current Chapel which was dedicated in 2002. The hospital site is also home to two prayer rooms which are largely used by the Muslim population of staff, patients and visitors, who make up the hospital community. 

Helen added: “The whole hospital community has gone the extra mile over the last two years, not just us. Covid has challenged, and continues to challenge, all of us working in healthcare.

“We are grateful to be part of a bigger team within the hospital which respects the spiritual and religious needs of its patients and staff. We see this award as an affirmation of the value, dignity and ‘otherness’ of human life which we believe should be treasured, honoured and celebrated.  

“Sadly, two years after the pandemic began, hospital visiting remains restricted, so we would continue to encourage Church leaders to contact us if members of their congregations find themselves in the care of the Trust.” 

The Trust’s Head of Patient Experience, Eleanor Walsh, is full of praise for her colleagues saying: “At the height of the pandemic the chaplaincy team aided patients and their families in decisive and painful moments when they could not be there due to the visiting restrictions.  

“Many chaplains across the country offered virtual chaplaincy, but our team were able to work within the critical care environments, helping the patients and their families to find meaning, purpose and hope when confronting death; also supporting communication between the families and the medical staff. 

Ms Walsh also praised the support the Chaplaincy team gave to the staff of the Trust: “The team became much more intentional about self-care and the need for our staff to access wellbeing resources, the chapel and garden became ‘wobble’ rooms/wellbeing spaces for staff to tap in and out of high-intensity scenarios; ensuring they had a quiet space to relax and reflect.  

“They also created ‘don’t take work home with you’ cards which had poignant coping mechanism/support messages to relieve anxiety and burnout staff may have felt at the end of a shift.” 

The awards for the Chaplaincy Team also led to praise today from the Bishop of Lancaster, Rt Rev Dr Jill Duff, who said: “Coming to hospital for any reason can be stressful for patients and their families at any time; but this was further heightened during the pandemic.  

“The work of our CofE Chaplains across Lancashire has been an outstanding witness these past two years and I am delighted the Team at the Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has been recognized in this way. 

“Each person coming into hospital has their own unique spiritual and pastoral needs and our Chaplains are available for anyone requiring support – no matter who they are and whether they are a person of faith or not. 

“In this way they provide a valuable service and I am particularly thankful for the way in which the Chaplains were able to support the hard-pressed staff of the hospitals during the pandemic; and enable them to ‘decompress’ both during and after their shifts.”