By Ian Dunt
Doctors have voted down a Christian motion which would have allowed them to "share their faith" with patients.
The motion, which was made at the British Medical Association (BMA) conference, sought to allow doctors to pray for their patients.
"The BMA conference has been very sensible in refusing give this unfettered permission to religious doctors to offer prayers to patients," said Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society.
"The restrictions are there for a very important reason - to protect patients from embarrassment, irritation and possible conflict with their doctor.
"If patients want to raise the issue with their doctor or nurse, that is a different matter, but the initiative should rest entirely with the patient."
The NHS spends £40 million a year on hospital chaplains, Mr Sanderson said, whose role included offering spiritual comfort to patients.