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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

The Charitable Chaplaincy Campaign in Wales

NSS Volunteer Alan Rogers explains the campaign to relieve Welsh hospitals of the cost of chaplains


Since the financial year 2007/8 secularists in Wales have been collecting data on the cost of hospital chaplaincy to the Wales NHS.

Up to the financial year 2010/11 a total of £4,202,262 has been spent on this service. Current expenditure runs at rather more than £1.3 million per year.

Why do we oppose this use of tax-payer monies? The case is made in detail in our Proposal document and the scope and manner of conducting the campaign is defined in our Principles document.

To summarise, we have analysed the stakeholder interests of patients, hospital staff, the Wales NHS, the Health Minister and the religious denominations and chaplains. All stand to benefit or, at the very least, suffer no dis-benefit from the creation of a charitable trust to fund religious care in the hospitals of Wales.

The campaign is growing. A survey of candidate opinion conducted at the recent Welsh Assembly elections showed 60% support for our objective amongst respondents. We are now an informal network of supporters covering the area of every NHS Trust in Wales.

I do not anticipate an early success; the campaign may have to be maintained for many years. This would be sad because, while this goes on, not only does the money lost to nursing and medical care grow, but the faith communities are demonstrated to be less caring of the Wales NHS than the secular charities which work hard to help the Wales NHS.

For example, in the last few weeks a group has established a charity to provide motorcycle express delivery of blood transfusion supplies. We wish them well and congratulate them on their initiative. The Wales Air Ambulance Service is funded by a charity which raises £5 million each year.

The pragmatic purpose of the campaign is to release money for nursing and medical services, money which can and should be provided by charity.

For those with an interest in philosophy there is a deeper concern. The College of Health Care Chaplains (CHCC) which represents chaplains in England and Wales has stated in its guidance document put before the Minister of Health “…chaplains are the specialist spiritual care providers…” This is an attempt to entrench the concept of Cartesian Dualism in the NHS. This term refers to the mediaeval concept of a physical body containing a separate immaterial “spirit”.

This idea is outdated. It was completely discredited by philosophers over half a century ago and medical science now regards mind and body as an inseparable nexus. They evolved together, they are one system. There is a practical outcome of this modern understanding. For the patient to benefit from so-called “spiritual” care this must come from the practitioner (nurse, midwife, doctor, et al). In truth, empathetic care in a working environment of holistic care is what is required.

This means spending money on the training of nurses and other practitioners and allowing for such care in nurse work-loads. The expenditure on chaplains distracts and detracts from such objectives. Chaplains are the specialist in religious care and, since the NHS is a secular body, such care should funded by charity.

If you live in Wales and would like to join the Charitable Chaplaincy Campaign or if you wish to receive copies of the documents mentioned above, email the NSS at enquiries@secularism.org.uk and they will put you in touch. Please put as the subject line “Charitable Chaplaincy Campaign”

See also: NHS to lose a quarter of its workforce because of cuts

Published Fri, 22 Jul 2011