Hospital wanting to know religion?

I’ve just been reminded of this by a chance conversation on another topic.

Last year, when I attended the MS clinic for the first time, following a confirmed diagnosis, I was taken aback to be asked my religion!

I know people will say: “Ah well, it’s just standard procedure”, but I wasn’t being admitted, I’ve never been admitted (in connection with MS, or anything else), and I was only there for a two-minute outpatient appointment!

I’m not offended by the question, but I just wondered whether all new MS patients routinely get asked this.

The only reason they could possibly have for needing to know is whether I need any special provision if I am dead, or nearing death. Which seems rather disproportionate and alarming, at an oupatients’ clinic. It’s not as if I was signing up for risky surgery, that only had a 50-50 chance. Even if I were unfortunate enough eventually to succumb to MS, what are the chances of my doing it in Outpatients?


Hi Tina,

There could be several reasons why you were asked this, but the first which springs to mind is the position of Jehovah’s Witnesses whose faith prohibits them from accepting blood transfusions. That’s just one example is off the top of my head but I think there could be many more.


Eiona :slight_smile:

It’s all down to statistics. ‘They’ - the powers that be whoever they are - decided they needed to know what percentage of patients are of which religion.

I assume they want to do something with the statistics, but who knows what! Unless they are going to make sure there is someone (eg a priest) is available for each religion if there are enough people to need it.

Hi Eiona,

I realise there are possible reasons for a hospital wanting/needing to know, if you were admitted with critical illness, or for major surgery.

But for routine visits to outpatients, for management of a long-term condition?

What the heck could happen to me on my once-a-year visit to the neuro, that I’d suddenly need a blood transfusion, or the last rites, or both? How dangerous can it possibly be in there?


Ah, Hi Ellen, I actually never thought about it being for “equality monitoring”, or whatever. They didn’t ask what ethnicity I consider myself to be!

I automatically took it to be in case anything happened to me in there, which is a bit disconcerting, when it’s only an outpatients’ clinic you go to for two minutes, once a year.

I assume that if I was in a life-threatening condition (due to MS, or anything else), I’d be unlikely to end up at that hospital at all, let alone in the outpatients’ clinic! It’s not the nearest emergency facility.


If it’s the first time in any Dept. then I believe it’s routine. e.g. earlier this year I had to attend A&E when I hurt my ankle ligaments and I had to answer that question and if it’s the first consultation in an MS Clinic , again it’s routine such as noting who your next of kin is etc

Other than that, I’ve run out of grey cells :wink: and can’t think why it would be neccesary on a regular visit

Eiona (I can’t figure these childish smilies too :wink: (nor why I have to verify its me usuing these damned captchas…)

As already mentioned, there are certain religions which would require you to be treated slightly differently for certain things, but in general, it’s probably another box ticking exercise for the NHS and I wouldn’t worry about it.

Luisa x

It’s not just box ticking.

The NHS in England spends £29 million a year on hospital chaplains.

Ticking the religion box tells them which flavour religions gets the NHS’s cash.

My late dad-in-law was hospital chaplain in my local hospital until he became unwell and died, and one thing I can assure you is that it was not a job done for the love of the money (and I’ve just checked this out with my husband) - it was done for free, with no monetary remuneration nor any other kind of remuneration.

'Course, on the other hand, it may be different for the C of E or the Roman Catholic Church priests - I can’t speak for those.


Hi Tina, I reckon it is for at least 2 reasons.

  1. in case you do suddenly become very ill.or worse

  2. monitoring reasons.

Other than those 2 things, I dunno.

If it bothers anyone, then you can always refuse to answer of just give your choice of religion.

I don`t think it is anything to worry about either.

luv Pollx

I must admit, I find the figure - if true - very surprising indeed, as I would have thought hospital chaplains were funded by the Church (or other religious organisation, in the case of other faith equivalents) - and not by the NHS.

I realise the NHS must have to make certain mininimal provisions for the chaplain, such as providing an office or room for them, but I really wouldn’t expect the NHS to be paying their salary. They’re an employee of the Church of England, surely?

I’m not against spiritual provision in hospitals - I’m sure many patients and relatives have found it a comfort in a time of crisis. But I certainly wouldn’t have expected the NHS to fund it to the tune of £29M a year.

I probably wouldn’t have answered the question, if I thought it had anything at all to do with earmarking funding. I like the idea of having the option to see a spiritual advisor, if I were desperately ill in hospital. But I’m not so keen on it coming out of NHS funding - if, indeed, it does.

I would have thought the Church funded that, as part of their routine ministry.


Hi Poll,

Just seemed a bit over-the-top to me, for a hospital I only attend very occasionally, as an outpatient. If I were suddenly taken desperately ill, it’s not the hospital I’d most likely be taken to anyway.

I suppose I’m not “worried about it” as such. I just think it’s a bit of a ridiculous question, when you aren’t being admitted, nor ever likely to be - at that particular institution. If I was going to have a medical emergency, I’d be thousands of times more likely to have it at home, or anywhere BUT my very occasional and brief visits to the hospital. In fact, it would be really remarkable if I did manage to time my unspecified life-threatening event to be anywhere near the hospital.


The hospital only cares about your religion because it cares about being sued. In the event of an emergency, if you are not concious to give your consent and they do not have time to phone whoever is your next of kin they may be forced to make a medical decision for you. Unfortunately some people would rather just die then be helped and take offense at such actions because of their religious beliefs.

Religion…load of rubbish.

The £29 million figure comes from Freedom of Information request by ther national secular society here:

I think that they are right to raise this.

If you want someone from your chosen religion to visit you in hospital surely the church (or whatever) should pay?

The NHS is supposed to spend money on stuff that works. That’s the whole point of NICE to try work out what is supposed to be worth our £££.

I’d tell them Jedi

Or: Born Again Sceptic


I absolutely DO think MS was the reason - that’s my point!

I’ve never, ever been asked my religion on any other outpatient’s visit, to any hospital, for any reason.

So I think it’s unneccessarily alarmist and disproportionate.

OK, so I might have some completely unrelated emergency whilst there. But the risks are so minute, it’s not worth worrying about. And in any case, the risks are the same absolutely anywhere I go. They don’t start and end at the hospital gate. Nowhere else requires me to state my religion, just in case I experience a coronary/terrorist attack/natural disaster while visiting.

Can you imagine, before being allowed to shop at Sainsbury’s…?

“Well, we know it’s very unlikely, Madam, but we need to know your religious persuasion, just in case the roof fell in…”

To me, being asked in connection with a once-a-year outpatient appointment, at which I’m not even having treatment, is roughly equivalent to that. With the slight exception that I’m actually more likely to come to harm in Sainsbury’s, because (i) I go there more often, and for longer, and (ii) it’s probably an inherently more dangerous environment than a chat with my consultant. Heavy shelves stacked with stuff might fall on me, I might get rammed with a trolley, I might slip on some squashed fruit, that sort of thing.

Nothing traumatic’s ever actually happened to me at Sainsbury’s, I hasten to add - in case you think I’ve got a bit of a downer on them. But it’s surely more hazardous than my neuro visit?


I always select the, ‘Mind your own business’ box. Nosey parkers.



There wasn’t a “box” - they asked me outright!

But with hindsight, yes, I wish I’d declined to answer. None of the replies here persuads me it was a reasonable and legitimate question, that they genuinely “needed” to know. I do think it’s slightly different if you’re attending for some reason other than a routine outpatient’s appointment - i.e. if you were actually being admitted, or having a procedure that carried some risk. But I wasn’t. To have to declare your religion, simply because you’re on the premises talking to someone, albeit not having anything done, is bizarre!

Incidentally, the BUPA hospital, where I had MRI with contrast (some risk, albeit tiny) never asked my religion first.



Years ago,long before I had MS I attended out-paitents as a gynecology paitent and I was asked my religion every time I attended !

It really is standard,but you could always talk to PALS for reasurrance.