An atheist has been appointed for the first time to a post of head chaplain at an NHS trust.
Non-religious chaplains should have a greater presence on hospital wards across the National Health Service, humanists have claimed.
Humanists UK says the number of religious chaplains operating within the NHS is disproportionately high, given the proportion of people who do not have a faith - more than half according to Social Attitudes Survey data.
Director of public affairs and policy, Richy Thompson told The Observer newspaper: "Non-religious people want to meet someone who is like-minded and the data suggests religious chaplains don't generally visit non-religious people.
"Research shows that only around four-per-cent of visits by religious chaplains are to the non-religious."
Humanists UK believes current chaplain teams do not properly serve the non-religious, and the organisation has been fundraising in order to pay for and train so-called non-religious pastoral carers.
Amid a backdrop of NHS funding pressures, the number of NHS chaplaincy posts fell by 20-per-cent between 2010 and 2015 to 916, according to the Health and Social Care Information Centre.
Mr Thompson went on to say: "Often being able to speak to someone who shares your world view facilitates the ability to explore deep existential questions and enhance someone's wellbeing at a point of crisis."
Lindsay van Dijk was appointed to the post at the Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust.
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