An atheist has been appointed for the first time to a post of head chaplain at an NHS trust.
A humanist has been chosen to lead a national body supporting the development of pastoral and spiritual care in the NHS across England for the first time.
Simon O'Donoghue, who is also head of pastoral support at Humanists UK, was elected to chair of the Network for Pastoral, Spiritual, and Religious Care in Health (NPSRCH) until 2020.
Commenting on the appointment, he said: "I am delighted to have been elected Chair of the Network for Pastoral, Spiritual, and Religious Care in Health for the next two years.
"I look forward to working with NHS England, with religious groups, and with Humanists UK to take forward my new role and helping to meet the pastoral needs of all those in healthcare."
National guidance introduced in 2015 called upon all NHS bodies in England to provide pastoral care to non-religious people on the same terms as the religious.
Humanists UK has argued that its own research shows there is now "widespread" demand for access to non-religious pastoral care.
In April, Premier reported on how a humanist was appointed for the first time to the post of head chaplain at an NHS trust in Buckinghamshire.
Simon O'Donoghue added: "Speaking personally, I think my election is a sign that the demand for pastoral care for the non-religious is increasingly recognised and valued, a much needed change."
The NPSRCH brings together groups including the Church of England and the UK Catholic Church which represent various religions and beliefs.
The Network highlights pastoral care available within the NHS, and it supports the training and education of pastoral support volunteers.
Other NPSRCH members include the National Hindu Council of Temples, Vanik Council UK, Free Churches, and the UK Sikh Healthcare Chaplaincy Group.
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