THE new head of the chaplaincy service at Ealing Hospital brings a big smile and plenty of enthusiasm to his new job.

Rizwan Rawat, who prefers to be called Riz, is the first Imam in the role but says he and his fellow chaplains often put religion aside in their day-to-day conversations with patients and staff.

“I prefer the term ‘spiritual care team’ but that is a work in progress,” laughs the father of two who joined the trust a week ago.

“We are here to listen and talk with people about whatever is troubling them. We don’t pretend to be psychologists, but just getting people to talk about what is on their mind can help.

“What goes on inside us is as important as what goes on outside us, and being in hospital often gives people a chance to reflect on their lives.

Riz says there are parallels with one of his previous jobs as a chaplain in HMP Belmarsh, citing isolation and illness as factors that spark can spiritual crisis.

He is the first to admit the thinly-stretched service - there are only three full-time chaplains - has to contend with a number of public misconceptions about their role.

“Here comes the God Squad is a common one, but I can assure people religious recruitment is not on the agenda,” he said.

“I do think the service labours under that image, along with the belief that we are all about crisis and death.

“We are also here to celebrate the positives, such as the birth of a child or recovery from serious illness. So, my message to staff is tell us about it!”