New NHS guidance requires hospitals to provide pastoral care to non-religious

Mar 16, 2015

By National Secular Society

New guidance published by NHS England will require hospitals in England to consider the needs of non-religious patients by ensuring they have access to appropriate pastoral care.

The National Secular Society has cautiously welcomed the new guidance, after previously criticising an earlier draft for failing to adequately recognise the needs of patients who do not identify with a religious faith. The NSS has longstanding concerns about the inappropriate and unsustainable nature of faith-based chaplaincy in the NHS.

The report, Promoting Excellence in Pastoral, Spiritual and Religious Care, sets out to “respond to changes in the NHS, society and the widening understanding of spiritual, religious and pastoral care.”

The guidance states that “it is important to note that people who do not hold a particular religious affiliation may still require pastoral support in times of crisis” and defines chaplaincy as “intended to also refer to non-religious pastoral and spiritual care providers who provide care to patients, family and staff”.


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27 comments on “New NHS guidance requires hospitals to provide pastoral care to non-religious

  • In 2009/10 NSS research revealed £29 million was spent on hospital
    chaplaincy from NHS budgets.

    Instead of repeating the same old doctrines against religion, the above should be advertised from the highest point. I thought ministers visited families for free not charged the NHS for it. Madness!!



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  • @OP The guidance states that “it is important to note that people who do not hold a particular religious affiliation may still require pastoral support in times of crisis” and defines chaplaincy as “intended to also refer to non-religious pastoral and spiritual care providers who provide care to patients, family and staff”.

    I have always found the medical staff, provide far better advice than any chaplains! The funding should be diverted accordingly.
    If some church members want to visit fellow members (with their consent), – on the same unpaid basis a family members or neighbours – fine!



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  • 3
    Miserablegit says:

    If I am sick in hospital the last think I want is some religious loony offering me spiritual comfort, I am likely to throw a bible at their head.



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  • 4
    Robert Firth says:

    Visiting the sick is one of the Seven Corporeal Works of Mercy, and to accept money in return is a clear violation of Christian teaching. It is also explicitly prohibited by the encyclical Dives in misericordia of Pope John Paul II.

    But I guess some chaplains believe they can indeed serve both God and Mammon.



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  • I found “pastors” coming to visit uninvited any time was in hospital for an extended time. They did not seem to be too offended when I said I was not interested. However, I figured this is dirty pool, putting on a sales pitch when a person has so little resistance.



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  • people who do not hold a particular religious affiliation may still
    require pastoral support in times of crisis

    How stupid is this! Pastoral care for non-religious!? What!? There is no doubt, they are completely mad.



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  • I’ve always looked at pastoral “care” as a having a placebo affect, like being akin to a sugar pill. It’s not for me, but if there is nothing more actual medicine can achieve and the patient likes that sort of thing who am I to argue when they actually feel “better”? The mental well being of a patient is important as well and sometimes the human interaction outside of the nurses and doctors poking you can really help.



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  • I am appalled, but sadly not surprised that our hard pressed hospitals are being charged money for “pastoral care”. I am as appalled as I was when I recently asked for £18.50 to go into St Paul’s Cathedral. I only wanted to go in because I was with an old lady from a care home who actually believes their voodoo and wanted to say a prayer for her late husband. They demanded £37 for the two of us. I pointed out that one of their own loyal Christians simply wanted to say a prayer and being an old lady in a wheelchair from a care home could not afford to pay such an enormous amount, they turned us away. Unbelievable … “Christ for sale! Christ for sale!



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  • Christ for sale! Christ for sale!

    There are four services held at St Paul’s Cathedral daily which are open to everyone and without charge. Most visitors choose this option rather than paying to enter. There is also a chapel available for private prayer throughout the day which again is not charged for.



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  • Peter Mar 17, 2015 at 2:50 pm

    I am appalled, but sadly not surprised that our hard pressed hospitals are being charged money for “pastoral care”. I am as appalled as I was when I recently asked for £18.50 to go into St Paul’s Cathedral. I only wanted to go in because I was with an old lady from a care home who actually believes their voodoo and wanted to say a prayer for her late husband. They demanded £37 for the two of us.

    It is sad that those poor impoverished churches with only the Church’s £5.2bn portfolio, have to charge old ladies to look around!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-23467750
    Welby ’embarrassed’ by Wonga link

    The Church of England’s investments are wide-ranging and complex.

    They range from pieces of woodland used for timber to investment strategies run by some of the world’s biggest hedge funds, and stakes in big oil companies.

    The whole operation is overseen by an ethical investment advisory board designed to prevent the Church from funding any businesses seen as against Christian principles.

    Last April, the Church commissioners informed companies in which they held shares, that they would vote against awarding bonuses in excess of four times their annual salary to executives. !!!!!!!!!!!!

    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/9659eefa-4e86-11e1-8670-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3Ugbr6hkm



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  • They demanded £37 for the two of us.

    When you go on an organized tour anywhere in the world, there is always the inevitable cathedral or local church on the agenda. I used to go in with the rest but now I politely decline. The church building always dominates the town setting. I ponder the resources used to construct this powerful religious fortress and what could have been achieved for the village had they been expended on some useful civic project.

    I get more enjoyment from watching the local street scape and trying to imbibe some of the local atmosphere. The shops. Who’s talking to who. Kids play the same all over the world. Sometimes I even score a conversation with a local for long enough, that I stop being a tourist and become just another human. Some of my best travel experiences have been outside cathedrals around the world.

    My partner and I have a slogan as we tour. AFC. Another F@#$#$% Cathedral.

    p.s. @Peter. This can’t possibly be true.

    I only wanted to go in because I was with an old lady from a care home

    I’m told by the religious that it is impossible for atheists to be kind without a guiding god. So I don’t believe this.



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  • Christ for sale! Christ for sale!…at St Paul’s Cathedral daily…

    Ewan, the fairest policy would dictate resuming ownership of St. Paul’s and every other church, in lieu of taxes avoided over the centuries. We could convert them into centres for learning where people could attend to hear lectures or watch video presentations explaining the psychology of religion to everyone. This would reduce the burden on NHS services by reducing the number of people with insufficient character to deal with their own illness more rationally.

    Bishops and priests could rent time once a week to conduct their superstitious services, provided they pay a fair market price for the facility which has been furnished by the broader community. These services need to supply free entry to anyone curious about the medieval rituals involved. Parishioners could pre-pay their priests for Sunday mass to ensure free entry to anyone on the day.



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  • St Pauls – Why do we charge?
    Last year, more than two million people came to St Paul’s – 1.2m came in free during worship, another 940,000 paid as sightseers.
    At St Paul’s we receive no money from the government, and as such, are fully responsible for raising all the income needed to operate.



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  • Why can’t clerics make a valuable contribution? The clerics I have met in my life have been kind and generous people, well skilled in the support needed in a hospital environment. I’m not talking about the frothing at the mouth fundamentalist types here. Emotional support does not have to be religious.
    At a particularly dark time in my life, it was the curate from the local parish church that helped me claw my way back. I told him from the outset I was an atheist, and the support he gave me was completely secular. He acted as a decent human being and with great kindness.
    So, I fully support clerics administering to secular patients, as long as they suspend the religious aspects, as my curate did.



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  • Unfortunately, everyone needs money just to exist in this world. Pastoral care is full-time work for many people. Would you ask that they starve? Having worked in a hospital in another capacity, I was dismayed at the lack of pastoral care I saw occurring. Doctors and nurses just don’t have the time to emotionally support patients. Someone has to do it and they should be paid to do it because everyone is entitled to a living wage (“for the worker deserves his wages”- Luke 10:7)!



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  • The role of a pastoral carer isn’t to offer advice but to support the patient emotionally. I see it as more of a counseling role. Doctors and nurses are too busy to carry out this task and some patients can be frightened and alone without support during a difficult time in their lives. I say this having worked in a hospital in another capacity and regretting that some patients, particularly those without close family and friends, lack the support they need.

    Spiritual care basically means care of the person rather than their body and this shouldn’t be left up to people of any one type of belief. Spirituality is way broader than belief in any one doctrine. In fact, I would argue quite the opposite- doctrine is the enemy of true spirituality.



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  • Sharka Mar 18, 2015 at 6:15 pm

    Unfortunately, everyone needs money just to exist in this world. Pastoral care is full-time work for many people. Would you ask that they starve? Having worked in a hospital in another capacity, I was dismayed at the lack of pastoral care I saw occurring.

    Counselling can be a valuable service but, there is no reason to assume that preachers are better at it than psychologists. If the NHS is paying – use professionals!



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  • another 940,000 paid as sightseers.

    I’m presuming mostly tourists….No concessions for British? None for the elderly? £72 for a family of four..outrageous.



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  • I’m not sure of the situation in England but in Australia pastoral care in hospitals is carried out by trained individuals of various spiritual beliefs (or none). Psychologists have their place but pastoral care is carried out by people specialised for that task. Hospitals couldn’t afford to have psychologists carry out pastoral care- their salary is too high- and their comparative advantage lies elsewhere.



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  • those without close family and friends, lack the support they need.

    Sharka, some patients think they need sporting facilities, or drums, to feel emotionally content in hospital. Hospitals are for healing, not satisfying the personal urges of patients. If superstitious patients imagine they’ve got spirits let them indulge such fantasies following their discharge, at home or in church.

    There’s a time and place for things. Pastors should only be allowed to visit during regular visiting hours, so as to minimize disruption to other patients and staff. They certainly shouldn’t be paid for their intrusive charades.



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  • When we’re admitted into hospital, the question is asked on the admittance forms, “Religion_______________”.
    Years ago when I had to get my abdominal aorta worked on, supposed to just be another awake procedure called angioplasty, (it tore while they tried to open a previously installed stent, so luckily, I had an excellent vascular surgeon who despite the statistics, “only a 30% survival rate even if in a hospital at time of tear”, he completely replaced my aorta) but I didn’t even know anything had happened!

    I had only written the word “None” into the “Religion” space. When I awoke to all my grown children around me, filled with tubes and equipment, I guessed that things had not gone as expected! The staff was so surprised at my reaction to near death, saying with glee, “I wouldn’t have known a thing! Felt no pain! Would have been a good way to go!” They all wanted to know why I was unafraid. I replied, “Do you remember all the millions of years BEFORE you were born? Any pain? Suffering?” Well NO, of course, but, but, but…now you have a soul…you’ll have to be judged before God….All that crap! I really thought I got through to many of them with my realistic adeptation of a heaven, that it could not be possible, as “How could I be eternally happy while observing others suffering here on Earth?”

    Later that day, a chaplain came to my room. He explained that “none” on my intake form, equalled plain old ordinary christianity! WTF? I was polite, but asked him to leave. Of course, he tried getting me to pray with him before he left; I again refused. He responded, of course, that he would pray for my soul….on and on, so on and so forth….I was exzerbated! Did a staff member contact him? Does NONE really mean that I’m regular christian? I will be putting “ATHEIST” in that section ASAP.

    My point is that, yes, if I found out I, or a loved one was told death was the diagnosis, maybe counseling would be helpful, but NOT RELIGIOUS! It is not right to approach a sick person in hospital and argue with them! Trying to scare them into submission! Many atheist doctors have difficulties giving grave news also, and much could be eliviated by having secular counseling available for all of us! What the evil books say about death is frightening, I fail to see how many people feel comforted by that belief! For loved ones who will miss the dead, THEY will be grieving; the dead person won’t miss a thing! 🙂

    In terms of payment, counseling for mental processes are (if not, MUST be) paid for by our insurance companies. Churches are afforded special privileges like NO TAXES, so that they can help their flock in times of need; they should NOT be paid by hospitals or insurance companies. IMHO.



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  • Kathy Mar 20, 2015 at 10:29 am

    Churches are afforded special privileges like NO TAXES, so that they can help their flock in times of need; they should NOT be paid by hospitals or insurance companies. IMHO.

    These UK National Health Service budgets are paid from government funds raised by taxation and statutory national insurance deductions from salaries, wages, and employer contributions.

    https://www.gov.uk/national-insurance-rates-letters/contribution-rates

    (The UK NHS provides slightly better services, for about half the price per person, charged in the US.)

    http://thesocietypages.org/graphicsociology/2011/04/26/cost-of-health-care-by-country-national-geographic/



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