The Chaplaincy Service at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust provides 24-hour care and support to staff, patients, and family members. Their pastoral, spiritual, and religious care is individual to each person and might include support, advice or rituals that give meaning to someone’s life.

One of the aims of the chaplaincy service, is to reduce health inequalities that some patients face because of their background or beliefs. They believe that every patient, or staff member should have access to support tailored to their spiritual needs.

Now, thanks to donations, together, we are supporting their mission to be there for every patient at their time of need, by funding a new Oncology and Palliative Care Chaplain for the next two years.

Frin Lewis-Smith joined the chaplaincy team earlier this year, providing dedicated support to people living with cancer and on end of life care in our hospitals. Frin provides support to cancer patients attending for clinics and treatment, and can also support by phone. With others in the chaplaincy team she also supports patients at their bedside on wards.

Photo of Frin, Specialist Chaplain at Leeds Teaching Hospitals

We spoke to Frin about her role and the support she provides to patients:

“All of us have the need to be heard and be seen and feel like people care for us. We all have big questions about our life meaning, which are heightened when you’re going through an incredibly difficult time. Often, we find that patients are reluctant to speak freely to  someone close to them because they’re putting their loved ones emotional needs above their own. Chaplains act as an independent person able to listen to worries, fears, hopes and concerns.”

“We focus on person centred care, and tailor our support based on what is the most important to an individual. The human to human moments where you connect with someone and listen to what’s powerful in their lives, what’s important to them, what scares them and what truly matters to them.”

Around 250 per week visit Leeds Cancer Centre for a diagnosis of cancer, and will continue to visit regularly for ongoing treatment.

The hospital’s cancer strategy has identified that psychological care is a significant aspect of patient care that should be offered to patients and Frin’s role is aligned to this by finding out what she needs to know about each patient to provide the best possible support.

Read More: Donations help fund new Chaplain to support NHS staff health and wellbeing

Frin’s role is unique because she can provide support to both patients who are admitted to hospital for a longer stay, as well as outpatients visiting hospital for an appointment or treatment. There is a preconception that outpatients can cope better with their illnesses because they are living in communities, but many patients living with cancer can self-isolate from those around them. 

There are many factors that can impact patients, from travelling long hours to and from hospital appointments, to enduring hours of chemotherapy treatment or regular visits for radiotherapy. Some patients unfortunately have to attend hospital appointments alone because they don’t have the support of a friends and family network.

Frin’s role also enables patients to have transparent and open conversations about death and dying, and some cases, she may be the first person an individual has spoken to about dying and questions around this.

Frin hopes that with her support, staff caring for patients will feel confident to speak to them about spiritual emotions and referring them to the chaplaincy team with support.

Frin told us:

“In one day I can experience so much, there’s such a shift of emotions. From speaking to a patient about their hopes for life after surgery, to hearing someone tell the story of how they met their partner who is now dying, to a room full of joy and laughter. Someone might ask for prayer. Someone might want to sit quietly but with a chaplain there as a sign they are not alone. It’s so special for me to be a part of these moments, all of life happens in our hospitals, the ups, downs and everything in between.”