The trade union Unite, which includes the College of Health Care Chaplains, has hit back at claims that churches and religious groups should fund chaplaincy services in the NHS.
The union dismissed what it called ‘sweeping generalisations’ made by the National Secular Society (NSS) yesterday. The society said the NHS in England spent £32m a year on chaplaincy services, which it said would be better spent on nurses and other clinical staff.
But in a statement Unite said chaplains took pressure off nurses by dealing with bereaved families and save on external funeral fees for patients without relatives. On call chaplains ensure the highest professional standards when dealing with baby and child deaths, the union said.
Revd Dr Chris Swift, a former President of Unite/The College of Health Care Chaplains, said: ‘The NSS report is based on erroneous and simplistic assumptions that do not delve into the real work that chaplains from all faiths carry out in the NHS on daily basis in often emotionally fraught situations.
‘Over and over again, our members receive feedback from relatives and friends on how useful and comforting it was to have a NHS chaplain on hand,’ he added.
‘I would like to see more independent research and objective study into the value of NHS chaplaincy. This research would demonstrate that chaplains are worth more than the notional £40m quoted by the NSS,’ he said.
‘The value of the chaplaincy service has been repeatedly recognised by the Department of Health.’