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Hospital chaplains instead of nurses

When money is tight, state-funded chaplains can effectively curtail people's rights to adequate medical care. The funds that chaplains take from the medical budget cannot be afforded by the hard-pressed British National Health Service.

Despite cuts in hospital funding, ever increasing waiting times for treatment and the rationing of tests, medicines and operations, there are more state-funded hospital chaplains than ever. These people are appointed by religious groups (including the British Humanist Association), but are not paid by them. And they receive more money than most nurses, earning as much as the highly trained “specialist nurses”. [1]

This is while the Royal College of Physicians has warned that the nursing staff are “dangerously overstretched”. [2] It has been shown that reducing the number of nurses causes patient deaths. [3]

The Mid-Staffordshire Hospital offered an especially attractive chaplains' post in 2012. They were looking for a head chaplain, who had to be Church of England, and whose base pay was close to that of a specialist doctor in training. Recruitment and Retention Premia (reviewed annually) and on-call payment were in addition to this, which effectively hid the total. [4]

This is the hospital where hundreds of patients died after inadequate treatment. It was so shortstaffed that unqualified receptionists were assessing patients arriving at the Accident and Emergency Department. [5] Yet less than a year after inspectors found that there were still too few staff to ensure patient safety [6], this very hospital was offering an “exciting” post to a top-ranking chaplain. He was expected to be well-prepared for the situation he was helping to cause — he must have “extensive experience of bereavement care and of leading funerals”.

According to a report by the National Secular Society £29m was spent on chaplaincy services by English NHS in 2009-2010. [7]  Although the major religious bodies in the UK are among the wealthiest organisations in the country — the Church of England alone is estimated to  have more than £5 billion [8] — they gladly take money from the health budget for their chaplains. 

It's not clear why the churches, mosques, temples and humanist groups cannot fund hospital visits for those who want them.


1. A search for "chaplain" (2012) at shows assistant chaplains in Band 5, (on a par with nurses), chaplains in Band 6 (on a par with specialist nurses) and head chaplains in Band 7 (on a par with heads of whole teams of nurses).
Agenda for change - pay rates

2. John House, "NHS shadowing scheme not enough to keep patients safe", The Lancet, Volume 380, Issue 9840, Page 459, 2012-08-04
2NHS rationing is putting health at risk, says doctors' leader"
"Acute hospital care 'on brink of collapse' say doctors"

3. “Nurse Staffing and Inpatient Hospital Mortality”, New England Journal of Medicine, 2011; 364:1037-1045, 2011-03-17.


5. “Hospital left patients 'sobbing and humiliated'”, BBC News, 24 February 2010 -02-24.

6. “Stafford hospital patients still at risk, says watchdog”, Guardian, 2011-10-10.

7. “Costing the heavens: Chaplaincy services in English NHS provider Trusts 2009/10”, National Secular Society, 2011-02-28.

However their claim that each chaplain costs as much as two nurses is uncritically taken over from  he unsupported statement of the Secular Medical Forum, which is unsupported by the respective pay scales in 2012.

8. “FactCheck: What else does the Church of England invest in?”, Channel 4, 2013-07-26.



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