Spirituality is everyone’s business.

Scottish Care has recently launched its latest Care Cameo. Its central theme is spirituality and spiritual care.

But what is it all about?

Two definitions to start our reflection:

“Spiritual care is that care which recognises and responds to the needs of the human spirit when faced with trauma, ill health or sadness” (NHS Education for Scotland,)

“A person’s spirituality is not separate from the body, the mind or material reality, for it is their inner life. It is the practice of loving kindness, empathy and tolerance in daily life. It is a feeling of solidarity with our fellow humans while helping to alleviate their suffering. It brings a sense of peace, harmony and conviviality with all.” (Spiritual Care Matters, NES 2007)

As will be clear once you start exploring the Cameo, there are many divergent views on what is meant by ‘spirituality’ and also what it means to offer and deliver ‘spiritual care’. This is for some people a difficult area both to explore and to engage with and that is precisely why we decided to dedicate a Cameo to this important issue. It is written by three authors with a particular experience in working in this field.

Spirituality has to do with the heart and pulse of being human. It is the soundless language which communicates our deepest emotions of love, anger, fear and belonging. It is the rhythm which gives form to many of our innermost thoughts and feelings. It is the space where we rest in the awareness of meaning beyond comprehension and experience beyond description. To offer spiritual care is to give opportunity, time and place to enable an individual to explore and to express who they are as a human individual.

As we seek to embed a human rights-based approach to care and support through the new National Care Standards it is an important that we not only understand the role of formal religion and belief systems but wider understandings of spirituality. As a care sector and as carers we need continuously to explore what this may mean for the work we do and the services we offer.

Spiritual care is care both at the margins and at the centre of the life experience. The way we commission care and support at the moment in Scotland leaves very little room for spiritual care. For spiritual care is a care that needs space, relationship, time and the chance to grow and nourish in a mutual dynamic of respect and understanding. Spiritual care happens in the ‘touching place’ between the carer and the supported person. It cannot be pressured into allocated seconds in a task-oriented approach. So when, I wonder, will our commissioners prioritise spiritual care? For if we are truly commissioning to the new National Care Standards then there has to be space to be spiritual in our care giving and there has to be funding to enable that space and time to happen.

I hope you will read the Care Cameo, and I have no doubt it will raise as many questions as it will seek to offer answers, but I hope you will find it, as I have, a thoroughly interesting and thought-provoking piece of work which is all about putting the individual and their holistic needs at the heart of person-led care and support.

Dr Donald Macaskill