Secularists Lobby to Remove NHS Chaplains

Country: United Kingdom

Date of incident: February 10, 2012

Secularists campaign to ban the use of National Health Service money to fund hospital chaplains.

The National Secular Society (NSS) argues that the NHS is spending “millions of pounds a year” on chaplains, and that public funds could be better spent on alternative health care services which were “non-discriminatory”. In a debate at the church’s General Synod this week, Rt Rev Mike Hill, the Bishop of Bristol, said that “Every effort ought to be made, and is being made, to resist secularist calls for chaplains to be excluded from the NHS." The Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Rev James Newcome, argued further that chaplains offered an important service at “crucial” moments in the lives of patients. “The cost of chaplaincy is minute as a proportion of the overall NHS budget and the role of chaplains is widely recognised by other health care professionals as making a very valuable contribution to the process of healing,” he said. Rev Dr Malcolm Brown, director of mission and public affairs for the Archbishops' Council of the Church of England, commented that: “It is widely accepted within the medical profession that healthcare involves looking after the whole person, not just the body. The role of hospital chaplains in a regime of holistic care is not in doubt among serious practitioners. Chaplains are greatly appreciated by patients and staff alike and it is unfortunate that the NSS continues to try to pressurise experienced healthcare professionals, including those with responsibility for budgets, to allocate resources according to the NSS's minority ideology rather than affirming the NHS's long tradition of caring for the whole person. The General Synod subsequently issued a motion supporting the use of chaplains in the NHS.