Reverends reveal all about their ‘rewarding’ work at King George Hospital

PUBLISHED: 12:00 04 October 2015

Queen's Hospital, chaplains.
Rev Tim Coleman, Rev Alison Horncastle, and Rev Philip Wright.

Queen's Hospital, chaplains. Rev Tim Coleman, Rev Alison Horncastle, and Rev Philip Wright.


Hospital chaplains fulfil an important role in providing support to the terminally ill and recently bereaved, but their little-known role is much bigger than that.

Rev Philip Wright. 46, chaplain at King George and Queen’s Hospitals can often be seen wearing a dog collar in West Ham’s colours on the wards and once played Ali G’s press photographer in 2002 comedy film Ali G Indahouse.

“We don’t wear black,” he said, “We’re not here to preach about religion, ever. The important part is helping the person or the relative – we work with all faiths.

“We begin any relationship with a patient by finding out what helps them. For some people that may be speaking openly about their illness but for others, it might be sorting out what’s happening to their cat after they die.”

The chaplain team, consisting of Rev Philip, Rev Alison Horncastle, 60, and Rev Tim Coleman, 58, provides a wide range of services, including baptisms, communions, coffee mornings and counselling.

This year, Alison has officiated two weddings – one for a terminally-ill patient “who had never got round to it” and another for a woman who wanted her terminally-ill mother to attend, shortly before she died.

This can mean long hours for the team who work Sunday to Friday 9am-5pm but are on call 24/7.

On Christmas Day 2014, Rev Philip, of Rush Green, was called to the hospital five times to perform Sacrament of the Sick, but he is unflinchingly positive about his job: “It’s a privileged position because people let us in at the worst time of their lives.”

The chaplains work alongside the palliative care team – the multidisciplinary approach means spiritual care is valued just as much as medical care for terminal patients.

Rev Alison, who has worked in the hospital for 20 years, is proud of the comfort they provide: “It’s a privilege to sit with someone – they may be suffering in pain but they allow us in.”

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