CHAPLAINCY services have been cut in 40 per cent of English NHS
hospitals since 2009, new research suggests.
Of the 163 NHS Trusts contacted by BBC Local Radio, 39 per cent
had fewer chaplains in 2013 than in 2009. Almost half (47 per cent)
had fewer chaplaincy hours, contributing to an overall 8.5-per-cent
fall in the total chaplaincy hours available in hospitals.
Eight Trusts have cut chaplains by at least half. The ten at
Stockport NHS Foundation Trust have been reduced to five.
One quarter of Trusts have increased chaplaincy hours. Seven
have more than doubled their chaplains. Birmingham Women's NHS
Foundation Trust now employs seven, compared with two in 2009.
Researchers also asked the Trusts whether chaplains who had left
in the past five years had been re- placed. One third (36 per cent)
said that the posts had not been filled, while 46 per cent (53 of
114) confirmed that, where the post had been filled, the occupants
were on a lower pay band or working fewer hours.
A spokesperson from NHS England told the BBC: "There is no
statutory requirement for hospitals to provide chaplaincy services,
unlike prisons and the armed services. However, healthcare
chaplaincy has been part of the services available to patients
since the inception of the NHS.
"Locally, NHS Trusts are responsible for delivering religious
and spiritual care in a way that meets the diverse needs of their
patients. Precisely how they do this is a matter for local
On Thursday of last week, the Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Revd
James Newcome, the Church of England's lead bishop on healthcare,
said that the situation was "not entirely a bad one", as the
greatest cuts had happened in a limited number of Trusts; but any
additional cuts "would place a huge burden on existing chaplains,
who are already very hard-pressed, and could have all sorts of
unforeseen consequences for the NHS itself".
The lead chaplain at Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust, the
Revd Rachel Bennett, said that the Trust was "coping well" in a
time of fiscal restraint. The BBC research suggests that chaplains
at the Trust have been cut from three to one, but Miss Bennett
explained that five sessional chaplains were employed part-time,
and their combined hours almost made up those of two full-time
The Trust was "absolutely committed" to chaplaincy services, she
said: "It's not just the role we have in caring for patients, but
the re- source we offer to the wider Trust, and to staff. . . I am
blessed that I am in a Trust that sees the value, and it's not
unusual for doctors to stop me in the corridor and just say 'Thank
you for all you are doing for my patients.'"
The president of the College of Health Care Chaplains, the Revd
Mark Burleigh, told the BBC's Sunday programme: "When
people come into hospital, the NHS doesn't just care for them as a
physical body: it cares for them as a whole person, and chaplaincy
is an important part of that holistic care, meeting spiritual and
religious needs at the darkest times of people's lives."
Last year, the General Synod carried a motion that affirmed the
part played by chaplains in the NHS, and called on the Government
to "ensure that chaplaincy provision remains part of the core
structure of a National Health Service committed to physical,
mental and spiritual health" (News, 17 February 2012).
Additional reporting by Caitlin Walsh.
Bishop Newcome writes, Comment