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NHS chaplains face redundancy

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VOL: 102, ISSUE: 33, PAGE NO: 4

Emma Vere-Jones

Jobs watch 15 August 2006

Jobs watch 15 August 2006

Moves to axe NHS chaplaincy jobs have been condemned by palliative care nurses who say it will impair end-of-life care.

Three trusts have confirmed plans to make chaplains redundant but the issue is more widespread, according to the College of Health Care Chaplains (CHCC).

Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust plans to make six chaplains redundant leaving only the team leader in post. Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust has cut its chaplaincy by a fifth to 160 hours a week.

Barking Havering and Redbridge Hospitals NHS Trust has also made two part-time chaplains redundant and the team-leader post has been taken over by a ‘patient satisfaction manager’, who has no background in chaplaincy, according to Carol English, Amicus/CPHVA officer representing the CHCC.

The moves go against Department of Health plans to improve end-of-life care and contradict recommended guidance for palliative care such as the Liverpool Care Pathway, nurses and chaplains say.

Tom O’Connor, a palliative care nurse specialist at Whittington Hospital NHS Trust, told NT: ‘The chaplaincy provide a very important service for people. If that wasn’t there is it would create a great void - not just in palliative care but right across the trust.’

Chris Swift, president of the CHCC, said that demand for chaplaincy services had been growing as a result of more trusts implementing the Liverpool Care Pathway. ‘What will happen at 2am when a woman loses a baby and wants a blessing?’ he said.

Nurses would suffer too, Ms English added. ‘When we have a major incident that’s when chaplains come into their own, because they provide support to both patients and staff.’

A spokesperson for Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, which has an underlying £30m debt, defended the move saying it would save the trust £100,000.

Barking Havering and Redbridge Hospitals NHS Trust confirmed that it was undergoing consultation on reconfiguring its chaplaincy service but refused to comment further.

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