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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

Chaplaincy funding and the NHS

The National Secular Society advocates equal access to healthcare and associated NHS services for all patients and NHS staff irrespective of their belief system or lack of one. The present system of hospital chaplaincy services leads to unequal care; many patients do not share the particular religion of the appointed chaplain. Whether or not chaplains offer their services to all, this is not an acceptable compromise for a large proportion of our diverse society who rightly expect and deserve the state to fund non-discriminatory services. Nowhere is this more important than where people are at their most vulnerable; in a hospital environment.

Our latest study of NHS Trusts in England has shown that £29m of healthcare money was used to pay for hospital chaplains in 2009/10. The study revealed that many of the country's best hospitals spent the lowest proportion of their expenditure on chaplaincy services and concluded that the NHS wastes millions every year on services that have no clinical benefit.

English NHS Trusts were asked how much they spent on hospital chaplaincy services using the Freedom of Information Act. The proportion that trusts spent on chaplaincy was compared to how well it performed on national quality ratings. The results showed huge variations in the proportions that similar hospitals spend, and that if all NHS Trusts brought their spending into line with the best Trusts, savings of £18.5m a year would be made. £18.5m could pay for 1,000 nursing assistants or a brand new community hospital every year.

The major religious bodies in the UK are some of the wealthiest organisations in the country. For example, the Church of England has assets recently estimated at £6 billion. We contend that if churches, mosques and temples wish to have representation in hospitals to visit those patients who want some religious support whilst in hospital, they should do it at their own expense.

Find out more

Also See:

NSS Chaplaincy costs Survey 2009 - full list of English Hospital Trusts and what they spend on chaplains

Charitable Chaplaincy Cymru - The campaign for the charitable funding of hospital chaplaincy in Wales

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NSS Honorary Associate Dr Evan Harris debates NHS chaplaincy services on BBC Breakfast