§ Lord Hylton
asked Her Majesty's Government:
Why patients are asked to give their religious affiliation on admission to hospital when it appears that this information is not, or cannot be, passed on to chaplains who may give appropriate spiritual support. [HL450]
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath)
Hospital chaplains have an important role to play in hospitals and their work is appreciated by many patients.
Under the provisions of both the Data Protection Act 1998 and the common law duty of confidentiality, NHS hospitals must not disclose information about a patient's religious affiliation to chaplains for the purposes of spiritual care without first seeking the consent of the patient. The exceptions are where there is a statutory requirement to disclose or where a patient is incapable of providing consent and clinicians consider that disclosure is in the patient's best interests.
It is possible for hospitals to seek consent when they collect information and we understand that there are hospital trusts where this is routinely done. The Department of Health is presently working with representatives of various faith groups to identify and share good practice examples of hospital admission systems which routinely seek consent for the relay of this information to chaplains and which work in an efficient manner.