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Hospital Trust faces £120 million in cuts to front line services but finds the money for chaplains and prayer rooms

The Royal Oldham Hospital in Lancashire has just spent £25,000 on refurbishing a multi-faith prayer room. The prayer room, which is in addition to the chapel at the hospital, includes a new ablution area for Muslim users.

The Hospital is part of the Pennine Acute Hospital Trust and, according to recent research undertaken by the NSS, it spent £394,000 on chaplaincy services last year. This will rise further as the Trust has just announced it has employed a further imam to look after the prayer room.

But the Pennine Acute — the biggest hospital trust in Greater Manchester — has now begun cutting routine operations at evenings and weekends in an effort to save £120m.

The huge package of cuts affects hospitals in north Manchester, as well as Rochdale, Oldham and Bury, and will result in a pay freeze for front line staff, and a reorganised rota to prevent overnight stays.

The Trust, which employs 10,000 people, must cut £20 million from its £545m budget this year, with another £25 million in each of the following four years. Cutting operations is expected to save £2 million a year, although the trust has refused to rule out redundancies. The threat of closure hangs over services such as the accident and emergency department at Rochdale Infirmary, which already does not accept ambulances between 6pm and 8am.

The NSS is renewing its research into hospital chaplaincies in the light of huge savings that have to be made in the NHS. This time we will also be looking at whether the claims made by chaplains — that their presence affects health outcomes — has any substance.

Also see

Who should pay for hospital chaplains?