New research released today by the public theology think tank Theos has revealed major cuts to chaplaincy provision in nearly a quarter of NHS Trusts in England.
The research shows that since 2005 chaplaincy care has been cut by a dramatic 54,127 hours (p/a). Trusts have also reported reductions to chaplaincy provision at an average of 19 hours per week. Only one Trust reported an increase in chaplaincy hours, and one major Trust has cut chaplaincy by over 50%.
The research finds that 23% of Trusts report a cut to their chaplaincy budget and indicates that, even where Trusts report an increase in their budget as a proportion of Trust spending, they have made cuts in real terms.
In February it was reported that hundreds of hospital chaplains could face the sack or a reduction in their hours as a result of the NHS cash crisis. The Theos report gives the first indication of the extent of these cuts. Last year, the Unite union warned that such plans would leave relatives and patients without spiritual and religious support.
In the research Theos issued questionnaires to NHS Trusts in England under the terms of the Freedom of information Act (2000). 85.7% of Trusts responded. 14.3% of Trusts have failed to do so.
Commenting on the findings, Director of Theos, Paul Woolley, said:
“In light of recent media coverage about specific instances of cuts in chaplaincy provision, it was widely assumed that this situation was being replicated across the board.
“However, up until now there has been no comprehensive data on this. Surprisingly, the Government does not collect any information on chaplaincy in the NHS.
“This research represents our attempt to put that right.
“The findings of our survey will make uncomfortable reading for those who value the unique contribution that chaplains make in the NHS.
“Chaplains uniquely support patients, relatives and staff, whether or not they have a religious faith commitment.
“The choice for NHS Trusts should not be between the clinical or pastoral needs of patients. Trusts are clearly under serious financial pressure, but if they are to provide holistic care the provision of appropriate chaplaincy support must be a priority.”
To listen to the Sunday programme’s report on the Theos research, click here, go to Sunday 7 October and Hospital Chaplains. To watch Paul Woolley discussing the findings on BBC News 24, click here and scroll down to the last item but one.