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Are hospital chaplaincy services really under the knife and is urgent action necessary?

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There are many financial pressures and problems being faced by the NHS and it is clear that 2015 is set to be another difficult year for health authorities up and down the country.

Indeed, hospital chaplaincy services are one of the many departments of acute healthcare services that are being affected by the current economic climate.

Many chaplaincy services up and down the country are facing budget cuts, reorganisation, and changes to available resources. The provision of an appropriate structure with an understanding of the part healthcare professionals and healthcare associated staff are expected to play is key, so surely with these shifts, now is the time for action?

The questions that we, as healthcare professionals and staff, have to ask ourselves are these: do we need an active and vibrant chaplaincy service in our hospitals? How can our chaplaincy services be of benefit to us as nurses and our patients? What is the point of our hospital chaplaincy services? And do they serve a purpose in our modern day?

There are undoubedtly many individuals who have benefited from the presence and support of an ordained chaplain or lay chaplaincy volunteer, many of whom may not have been of one particular faith. 

The work and scope of a chaplaincy service is wide-ranging and the support and resources that chaplains and chaplaincy volunteers can offer to all those in hospital, be they sick, suffering, dying, bereaved, troubled, lonely or even just sad, whether patient or staff, is invaluable.

Perhaps in 2015 the role and need for chaplaincy services is something that NHS Trusts need to focus on to a greater extent? And perhaps we as nurses, particular those in the acute sector, should do more to find out more about our local hospital chaplaincy services - seeing if they are fit for purpose, looking at how they could be improved and if necessary offering our services and advice to the relevant personnel.

There is clearly a need for some up-to-date research on this subject which can inform and qualify, as well as the production of some quality guidance and advice on the matter. Yes, there are many wide-ranging issues within the health service that need to be appropriately focused on, but chaplaincy services is certainly one of them. Perhaps the NMC and RCN, in addition to individual trusts and universities, should consider looking into this issue for the benefit of nurses and our patients.

In order for Chaplaincy services to survive and for them to be fit-for-purpose in a financial, moral and social sense this area needs to be given some consideration and dedicated time - and despite what some may say, the issue is certainly one of relevance to professional nursing practice.

Donato Tallo is a registered nurse working in the acute hospital sector

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