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A recent visit to Clitheroe Community Hospital in Lancashire by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, William and Kate, was also an opportunity for gain insight into the vital work of NHS hospital chaplains.  

The Royals were guests of East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust (ELHT) and their charity ‘ELHT&Me’ in their roles as Royal Patrons of NHS Charities Together.   

They met NHS staff to hear about their incredible work caring for patients and families throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.  

William was heard to comment: “We’re so grateful for all your hard work. I’m not sure there are enough words to say how grateful everyone is for what you have done.” 

During their visit, the Duke and Duchess were also introduced to an adorable trainee therapy puppy dog called ‘Alfie’ by hospital chaplain, Rev Canon Andrew Horsfall. 

Alfie – a cockapoo – is the second dog to join the team and is funded by a grant from NHS Charities Together, via ELHT&Me. Alfie even has his own blog on the ELHT website! Read it here. 

While they gave Alfie a cuddle, Rev Horsfall provided William and Kate with some insights into the work of the Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care Service; particularly how it has provided invaluable support to staff, patients and patients’ families throughout the pandemic.  

One of the more unusual but highly significant and valued aspects of this work has been the introduction of the therapy dogs like Alfie, who can bring some joy and comfort in difficult times.  

Reflecting on the Royal visit a few days on, Rev Horsfall commented today: “As chaplains, we are constantly seeking to support the wellbeing of everyone involved in the hospital in whatever ways we can. This Royal visit was a great opportunity to highlight that work and the Duke and Duchess took a great interest in what we do and thanked us for our care.  

“Meanwhile, Alfie proved to be a great ambassador for us! He was the star of the day; William and Kate loved him! 

“We have a handler who looks after the therapy dog and the Spiritual Care Service also oversees the work to acquire, train and deploy the therapy dogs in the most beneficial ways.”  

Rev Horsfall continued: “Alfie’s role, along with our much loved and experienced therapy dog Jasper, is to help people to feel better and to make them smile.  

“During the peaks of the pandemic, my amazing NHS colleagues were giving their all in caring for patients. We found that providing space for them to come and cry; talk with us if they wished, reflect on their experiences and then go back to the wards to carry on giving of themselves was very much appreciated.” 

Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care Services like the one provided through ELHT are multi-faith and are a vital part of the services offered by the NHS locally, regionally and nationally.  

The hopes and fears, worries and aspirations of people in a hospital context mean each person has their own unique spiritual and pastoral needs. The Chaplains are available to speak with anyone who needs their support whether they are a person of faith or not. 

Rev. Horsfall added: “Coming into hospital can sometimes be unsettling and stressful. Patients, relatives and carers may find it helpful to have someone to talk to.  

“Sometimes it just helps to have someone alongside to think things through; someone with the time to listen. We offer that chance of some space and time with a person who understands.”  

Chaplains are members of hospital staff and provide spiritual, religious and pastoral care to patients, their relatives and the staff. There are Christian chaplains (Church of England, Free Church and Roman Catholic) as well as Muslim chaplains; and representatives of other faiths can be called in as and when appropriate. 

  • To find out more about the work of the chaplaincy service at ELHT click here.  
  • The Church of England in Lancashire also has chaplains in other hospital trusts across the County. For more about each of those and the contact details to get in touch with each of them, click here.

Captions for the above pictures (photos courtesy ELHT) 

Picture 1 

The Duke and Duchess are all smiles as Denise Gee, Charity Manager at ELHT, introduces them to trainee therapy puppy dog ‘Alfie’ while the Trust’s Chaplain, Rev. Canon Andrew Horsfall, looks on.  

Picture 2 

Rev Canon Andrew Horsfall with trainee therapy puppy dog ‘Alfie’.