In an ideal world every member of staff who has any contact with service users and their carers would be able to give spiritual and pastoral care whenever it is needed, because spirituality is part of being human and caring is what we do. A mental health trust is full of people in the caring business. Chaplains are able to give their whole time to meeting spiritual needs and offering pastoral care.
Chaplains (some of whom are paid by the NHS and some of whom are honorary) and chaplaincy volunteers (none of whom get paid) work to meet the spiritual needs of service users, carers and staff.
It is important first of all to distinguish between religion and spirituality. Religion is a set of beliefs and practices shared by many e.g. Christianity or Islam. Spirituality is about those things which give meaning and purpose and hope; a person's spirituality may be a very individual affair. Obviously a religious faith involves spirituality but to be spiritual does not have to mean being part of any religious faith.
Members of the chaplaincy teams all have their own faith beliefs and practices which they are happy to share with others who share that same faith. We never try to persuade people to believe what we believe. Chaplains and volunteers always respect the beliefs and practices of others however different they may be. Equally important to chaplains is making sure that the religious and spiritual needs of every service user, carer and staff member is met whenever possible.
In practice this may mean things as varied as praying with a patient, providing confidential counselling for a member of staff over a personal matter, supplying prayer mats or Qurans, taking Sunday church services or leading memorial services, getting hold of a Rabbi or a Hindu priest, making sure that our hospital rooms for reflection are open and welcoming places for people of all faiths and none, for meditation or just to be quiet, being called out in the middle of the night to a patient's bedside and so on. The list is endless. Sometimes it may be a very public task and sometimes the chaplain is just the one person who has time to listen and to care. Sometimes it is a matter of finding just the right words, sometimes in the face of death or disaster the chaplain is the person who can just be there and sit with someone in silence.