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NHS chaplain receives BEM from the King

30 December 2022

A chaplain who has given support to patients, families and NHS staff in times of great sorrow, joy and uncertainty, has been awarded a King’s New Year’s Honour.

Senior Chaplain for Hywel Dda University Health Board Euryl Howells has been awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) for services to the Chaplaincy in NHS Wales.

Reverend (Rev’d) Howells said: “I am stunned and shocked to have received this honour. I am accepting it on behalf of all my NHS colleagues, as at the end of the day every one of them deserve this recognition, and also in thanks and remembrance to those people who have supported and mentored me.

“I don’t think I have done anything extraordinary. The meaning and whole idea of a chaplain is to shield and protect, to be a cloak, and that is what I see my role as.

“It is a privilege to give kindness and compassion to people, to listen to their story, and to be part of a multi-disciplinary team in the NHS to connect with people.”

Rev'd Howells started his career in banking but undertook his theological training more than 30 years ago. After serving in the Parish of Llangeler, just outside Newcastle Emlyn, he joined the then Carmarthenshire NHS Trust in 2002.

“I knew from my training that I wanted to work in healthcare as I had a mentor who has worked in this area and inspired me to be part of a multi-disciplinary team that provided emotional, psychological and faith-based support for patients, as well as mental and physical treatment.”

Rev’d Howells has had a rich vocation providing support to people across all hours of the day and in so many different circumstances, including most recently providing support to people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The pandemic was such an unknown for us all, and for our healthcare workers particularly, there was fear of walking into that unknown and potentially putting their own families at risk from carrying out their vocation. However, we have been there for each other, across the NHS and with our partners from 999 paramedics, social workers, police, and third sector providers. We are so fortunate in our community to work alongside such dedicated and committed people all working hard to fulfil their roles to public service.

“And in these roles, we have walked alongside people when there has been a tragedy, such as an unexpected death, or supporting our overseas community for example when there have been disasters abroad. But there is also joy, including at end-of-life when we are able to support people’s wishes, for example by facilitating a wedding. We also share in the hope and advancement that modern medicine and research brings, for example if a family have success with IVF where in the past, this chance would not have been there.”

Officiating over the funerals of colleagues has been amongst the hardest roles Rev’d Howells has had to undertake in his vocation.

“We cry together as a community but we celebrate together as a community also. We come together as a multi-disciplinary team to empower each other to carry out our responsibilities and try to make a difference,” he said.

Rev’d Howells is the Wales lead on the Healthcare Chaplaincy Council for England and Wales and worked with the Welsh Government and other faith leaders, and those of no religion, as part of the Ceremonies Committee during the pandemic.

“The respect people of different beliefs, communities, and cultures, demonstrated to one another was humbling to see. We can label ourselves but we have more in common than not – we are all humans at the end of the day,” said Rev’d Howells.

The New Year Honours List 2023 marks the incredible public service of individuals from across the UK.

Recipients in the New Year Honours List have been awarded for their outstanding contributions across all parts of the UK for their work on areas including sustained public service, youth engagement and community work.

Chair of Hywel Dda University Health Board Maria Battle said: “Euryl is an unsung hero, who has been a pillar of strength and support for our patients, their families and our staff for so many years and we are delighted he has been recognised with this BEM.

“The needs of people are rich and complex and we are so grateful to have the contribution of Euryl, and the wider chaplaincy team and people of other faiths and none whom they work closely with, to be able to provide spiritual guidance, pastoral care, and comfort, to people within healthcare when they need it.”