Friday, 1 October 2010

Hospital chaplains facing the axe

The National Secular Society has an article on swingeing cuts facing hospital chaplaincies.

The chaplains have always attempted to justify themselves by saying they provide an important source of spiritual comfort to the religious (of all denominations) and non-religious alike. The notion that those of other religions benefit from the pastoral services of Christian chaplains is of course nonsense, a bit like saying that the provision of free petrol benefits those with diesel cars (or, in the case of atheists, no car at all). Try to imagine Christians utilising pastoral services provided by Scientologists (and proposing that these services are paid for by taxpayers!). Those sharing the beliefs of the chaplain are privileged by this spending.

And what a lot of spending it is. Many people I talk to are amazed that hospital chaplains are funded by the NHS. In 2009, figures obtained under freedom of information requests revealed the total annual cost of chaplaincy services to the NHS in Great Britain to be upward of £35million.

The Unite union for healthcare workers is investigating whether chaplains are being targeted 'disproportionately' as in Nottingham, where four out of five chaplains have been cut. If the alternative is to cut doctors and nurses, whose services are needed by everyone in hospital irrespective of creed, I think this could be a case of most people agreeing where the axe should fall in the NHS.

Now, that defence department spending review: shall we cut Trident or army chaplains? ( not get started).

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