GPs and spiritual care: signed up or souled out? A quantitative analysis of GP trainers’ understanding and application of the concept of spirituality

Alistair Appleby (Corresponding Author), John Swinton, Ian Bradbury, Philip Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Citations (Scopus)


Background: GPs have a wide range of attitudes to spirituality which contribute to variations in the spiritual care they report to practice.

Aim/Objective: To assess concepts of spirituality and their application in a sample of GPs trainers. To explore statistically the relationship between personal spiritual affiliation, attitudes to, and reported practice of, spiritual care. To examine whether GP trainers consider training in spiritual care to be adequate.

Methods: Questionnaire: 87 GP trainers at a GP trainer’s workshop using Likert scale responses. Multinomial trend tests to analyse the relationships between “concept of spirituality” and attitude to, or practice of, spiritual care. Cluster and latent class analysis to investigate whether groups of GPs are categorically different from each other.

Results: GPs considered spirituality to be a meaningful, useful but unclear concept. 7/87 stated they did not wish involvement in spiritual care, 24 had reservations, 40 were pragmatically willing and 11 expressed keenness. 31/87 report they tend not to discuss spiritual matters. Only 9/87 reported receiving adequate training in spiritual care. Latent class analysis suggests two thirds are pragmatic supporters of spiritual care and one third are tentative sceptics.

Conclusion: GPs vary widely in their attitude to and practice of spiritual care. Two distinct groups were identified – tentative sceptics and pragmatic supporters. Training for spiritual care is perceived to be inadequate.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)367-375
Number of pages9
JournalEducation for Primary Care
Issue number6
Early online date19 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018



  • Primary Health Care
  • General Practice
  • Spirituality
  • Education (medical)

Cite this