NHS chaplains 'no clinical benefit'
(UKPA) – 2 days ago
The NHS spends £29 million on hospital
chaplains which provide "no clinical benefit" and there is huge variation in
costs, according to a report.
Data obtained by the National Secular
Society (NSS) from 227 trusts in England found savings of £18.5 million a year
could be made if all trusts brought their spending into line with those who
spent the least.
The society argues this cash could be
better spent on 1,000 nursing assistants or a new community hospital every
Using the Freedom of Information Act,
analysts compared the amount spent on chaplains in 2009/10 with how well trusts
performed on some quality indicators, including death rates. They reported that
those with the lowest spend on chaplaincy services were some of the
The NSS concluded the NHS "wastes millions
every year" on services that have no clinical benefit.
NSS executive director Keith Porteous Wood
said: "Taxpayers will be shocked to learn how much healthcare money is diverted
into paying for chaplaincy services. The cash-strapped NHS should spend its
money on frontline services. This study shows that massive savings can be made
immediately, with no impact on clinical care."
But the Rev Dr Malcolm Brown, director of
mission and public affairs for the Archbishops' Council of the Church of
England, said the NSS was "guilty of a laughable misuse of statistical
He added: "It is widely accepted within the
medical profession that healthcare involves looking after the whole person, not
just the body. It is equally obvious that national quality ratings can only be
used to measure the discrete criteria which they have been designed to measure.
"The role of hospital chaplains in a regime of holistic care is not in doubt
among serious practitioners."
Father Peter Scott, adviser for healthcare
chaplaincy to the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols,
said that, according to the NSS calculations, 0.000029% of the NHS 2009/10
budget was spent on employing 500 whole time and 800 part-time chaplains "to
meet the spiritual and religious needs of 1.7 million NHS staff and to serve a
patient turnover of one million patients every 36 hours".
He said the Department of Health website
makes clear it is "impossible to say exactly how much the nation's health
improves for each pound spent by the NHS".
he 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
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
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
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