Zimbabwe-born Connie Ashton, Lead Chaplain at Barnsley Hospital, says Black History Month (1-31 October) is a time to salute the vital role that black and ethnic minorities play in the NHS. Connie’s own sister is a nurse and her daughter Rumbidzai Ndove is a biomedical scientist at Leeds Teaching Hospital.

Barnsley Hospital’s chaplaincy provides an encompassing outreach service to patients, colleagues and carers – of all faiths and none. There is no ‘typical’ day, with chaplains carrying out many emotional roles from emergency ‘ward marriages’ when patients are at end of life, baby blessings and to providing a compassionate listening ear to many families who find themselves facing illness, sadness and loss.

Connie, who was brought up in a Christian family, is a keen embracer of all faiths. She said: “During the Covid pandemic we as chaplains faced a number of challenges and yet overcame them with creative solutions embracing ‘virtual positivity.’ For example, we will be live streaming the hospital’s annual baby memorial service on 10 October on Facebook. We continue to work within the ‘new normal’ to give swathes of support, working with Covid ward patients and staff and offering support around the Trust enabling people to become more in touch with their own spiritual needs.”

Connie said: “Black History Month is a time to give encouragement to those who feel their voices are not heard and as a Chaplain I can say ‘we hear you, we are here for you.’ It is a good boost to all minorities that we should remember and celebrate every month – not just Black History Month – Respect for diversity is important to all people.

“Inclusion is especially important within the NHS and the many roles filled by people from different cultures demonstrate what a hugely significant part they play in the health service. To those who may be interested in joining the NHS, I would say there are so many jobs you can do – you can be an accountant, a doctor, a porter, a nurse, a scientist, or a chaplain like me! Just follow your dreams and believe in yourself.”

She added: “For me, to be able to build human relationships and put a smile on people’s faces, especially in current times, is a really fulfilling aspect of my role. I look after the best interests of staff, patients, families and carers and how best to support them pastorally, spiritually and religiously, and to ensure that the Chaplaincy support is there for them whenever they need it. I love serving people. I find my role rewarding as it is a privilege and an honour to be there for people at birth to during end of life care, at the most difficult time and also their happiest moments in life.”

To find out more about what the chaplaincy service does at Barnsley Hospital, log on to: https://www.barnsleyhospital.nhs.uk/service/chaplaincy-and-chapel/