*** DEBUG END ***

Secularists’ report on NHS chaplaincy

16 March 2011


From Lucy Selman, the Revd Peter Speck, and Vicky Simms

Sir, — On 28 February, the National Secular Society published a report on the funding of hospital chaplains in the NHS (Costing the heavens: Chaplaincy services in English NHS provider trusts 2009/10). We believe the report is flawed and an over-simplistic attempt to measure the ability of health-care chaplains to influence directly the overall quality of a trust’s performance and mor­tality ratio.

First, the study makes the error of assuming that absence of evi­dence is the same as evidence of no effect (Altman & Bland 1995, British Medical Journal 311). Second, the Standards for Better Health assess­ment is a broad framework for trusts to monitor quality of care, and is not designed to assess the effects of an inter­vention.

Third, mortality rates are a poor measure of the effects of any inter­vention or component of care which does not have the primary aim of prolonging life, and is there­fore problematic as an overall measure of the quality of health care (Shojania & Forster 2008, Canadian Medical Association Journal 179).

The study ignores the multitude of factors that have a bearing on trust performance, and misuses the assessment tool. The study also des­cribes the trusts with lowest propor­tional spending on chap­laincy as the most efficient, when in fact ef­ficiency has not been established, since no appropriate measure of chaplaincy performance is applied.

One of the three core principles of Standards for Better Health is a focus on the whole of health and well-being, not only illness, signal­ling the commitment of the NHS to patient-centredness. The patient is an experiencing individual rather than the object of a disease. Chap­lains play an essential part in sup­porting individuals of any or no faith through illness and trauma.

Chaplaincy input is focused on a whole-person approach to the patients, relatives, and the staff who work within a trust, irrespective of the beliefs held by those individuals. While chaplaincy has a supportive role, it does not have any direct in­fluence in treatment decisions or the management of service-provision, other than spiritual care.

As with chaplaincy service in the armed forces (also paid out of the public purse and, as reported in the media yesterday, also highly valued), it is the ability of chaplains to sup­port individuals and groups experi­encing personal- and professional-life stresses which is recognised by the organisations that employ them — for a minute proportion of the overall budget (0.000029 per cent of the NHS 2009/10 bud­get).

Department of Palliative Care,
Policy and Rehabilitation
Cicely Saunders Institute
King’s College, London
Bessemer Road
London SE5 9PJ

Letters to the editor

Letters for publication should be sent to letters@churchtimes.co.uk.

Letters should be exclusive to the Church Times, and include a full postal address. Your name and address will appear alongside your letter.

Forthcoming Events

6-7 September 2022
Preaching as Pilgrimage conference
From the College of Preachers.

27-28 September 2022
humbler church Bigger God conference
The HeartEdge Conference in Manchester includes the Theology Slam Live Final.

More events

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times

​To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four* articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)

*Until the end of June: we’re doubling the number of free articles to eight, to celebrate the publication of our Platinum Jubilee double issue.