Last week we celebrated Dying Matters Awareness Week  by inviting local representatives from a range of faiths to a discussion event in our Hospice cafe.

We wanted to find out how different faiths approach death, dying and bereavement, so that we can better care for patients and their loved ones who may have specific needs related to their beliefs.

Diversity and inclusion strategist Gamiel Yafai was our facilitator for the evening, and our panel of speakers was arranged by Kurshida Mirza BEM, High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire. Kurshida has seven chaplains of different faiths who act as her advisers in her role, so we welcomed representatives from the Bahá’í faith, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism.

Guests were welcomed by our Chief Executive, Kate Broadhurst; our Director of Clinical Services, Kike Pinheiro; and award-winning entrepreneur Shalom Lloyd MBE, who is currently collaborating with the Hospice and champions diversity in all she does.

The discussion covered a range of topics, including beliefs and rituals around death, how we as a hospice can accommodate religious practices, and how we can respect faith traditions and sensitivities in our care.

Here are some of the insights the speakers shared:

Being clear upfront – Hospice staff should encourage open conversations at an early stage, so that patients and their families can be clear about their spiritual care needs. This means staff can work together with families to make sure those needs are met. It also presents an opportunity to discuss where there is flexibility and where there isn’t. For example, some rituals may be more time- or place-critical than others.

Deeper understanding of a patient’s spirituality – Speaking with a patient about their beliefs about death allows Hospice staff to adapt their approach and offer appropriate support. For example, some may view death with sadness and as an ending, whereas others may see it as a celebration and the beginning of a rebirth.

Deeper understanding of families’ needs – Patients’ families may have a specific role to play in their loved one’s death. The Hospice may be able to offer support with this, such as by giving time or space.

Nuance within religions – Not everyone of the same religion will follow it in the same way. There is much nuance, so a general approach can’t be applied. Equally though, Hospice staff can understand the general ‘spirit’ of a religion and its main tenets.

 Attitudes to treatment and care – Some patients may have strong opinions about taking pain relief or other medication or treatment because of their spiritual beliefs. Similarly, they may feel strongly about how and where they’re cared for, particularly if their beliefs centre around being looked after by family.

Enabling rituals at the right time – When a patient is dying, there might be specific rituals, readings or chanting that are crucial to their faith and need to take place at a particular moment. This may involve a family member or a local representative from a faith group.


Regardless of faith, or any other factors, we always respect our patients’ individuality. Every one of our patients is different and we treat them as so. We assess each patient holistically, to make sure we’re providing care and support in a way that suits them.

With the learning we have from this event, we can start to improve the spiritual aspect of those conversations and assessments, and have more confidence in talking openly with patients and their families.

Thank you to everyone who attended the event, shared their insight and listened. We’re committed to building on this initial discussion and exploring how we can continue to work together with faith groups to ensure the Hospice offers the best possible care to everyone in our community.

Look out for more information over the course of this year.