The Catholic Union of Great Britain has criticized new guidelines on chaplaincy in the National Health Service, saying they ignore the specific needs of individual faiths.
The new guidelines, which replace those published in 2003, aim to provide a comprehensive description of good practice in chaplaincy care for the NHS in England.
The Catholic Union welcomed the desire and intention to provide high quality chaplaincy and spiritual care, but it criticized the guidelines for being written “in a way which really recognizes no place for the specific needs of individual faiths.”
“For example, some faith communities like Catholics or Muslims or Sikhs or Jews have specific rites and religious needs which only people of their faith can address,” the CU said. “The guidelines seem to have little place for or understanding of this.”
By seeking to provide generic chaplaincy, the guidelines in their current form are a “poor and one size fits all approach to religious diversity which is not good enough to support patients in real need and NHS staff,” the CU added.
It further stated that given the weight of scientific evidence about the importance of faith and health, “we should be worried” by this “inadequate response” which will be “counter productive”.
The CU also criticized the process of consultation, saying no closing date is given on the website for submitting views. It further pointed out that the consultation is being carried out by a trade union which many Catholic chaplains won’t join because it is a trade union.
The Catholic Union is urging the faithful to voice these concerns in the following letter to the Secretary of State for Health and the Chief Executive of the NHS by 1st September. All details below:
Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP
Secretary of State for Health
Department of Health
PO Box 16738
Dear Mr Hunt
CONSULTATION ON NHS CHAPLAINCY GUIDANCE FROM NHS ENGLAND
You will be aware that this consultation on proposed guidelines is currently open, on the website of the College of Healthcare Chaplains http://www.healthcarechaplains.org/ . The guidelines purport to be a document which NHS England will adopt to describe its policy and approach to NHS healthcare chaplaincy in future. Having searched the NHS England website, I can find no copy of any consultation on NHS England’s website.
I have several issues relating to the guidance which I wish to raise with you, following contact from Faith communities in my constituency.
GOOD POINTS ABOUT THE GUIDANCE
I welcome the desire and intention to provide good high quality chaplaincy and spiritual care. We should also recognise that generic chaplaincy which provides a solid basic minimum with good practice standards can be enormously helpful for patients and staff of all faiths and none. But it cannot stop there.
KEY PROBLEM WITH THE GUIDANCE
That said, the guidelines seem to be written in a way which really recognises no place for the specific needs of individual faiths. So, for example, some faith communities like Catholics or Muslims or Sikhs or Jews have specific rites and religious needs which only people of their faith can address. The guidelines seem to have little place for or understanding of this.
THE NHS CONSTITUTION AND PUBLIC SECTOR EQUALITY DUTY
It seems to me that the guidelines go so far in seeking to provide generic chaplaincy that the proper provision of faith based chaplaincy recognised in all national guidance hitherto, that it runs contrary to both the commitment in the NHS Constitution and the Public Sector Equality duty that the specific religious needs and issues of patients and staff will be addressed. This is a poor and one size fits all approach to religious diversity which is not good enough to support patients in real need and NHS staff.
Given the weight of scientific evidence and research about the importance of faith and health, and the importance of diversity programmes acknowledging the real diversity and differences among staff in the workplace, we should be worried that not only is this an inadequate response to the NHS Constitution commitment and the public sector equality duty , but will be counter productive. Moreover, we know from faith communities and constituents that they value chaplaincy from their specific faith, and this is an important aspect of respecting their diversity.
Representations from my constituents tell me that the guidelines should, following the law and the NHS constitution, have a much clearer recognition of and focus on the place of religion and the capacity of faith communities within chaplaincy provision, while recognising the value of generic chaplaincy. I have to say I agree.
THE PROCESS OF CONSULTATION
I have to say that I also have some serious concerns about the process of the consultation. The guidelines are open for consultation on the College of Healthcare Chaplains website, but no date is given on the information on the website as to the closing date of these. Nor is any date of closure of consultation given on the document advertising two consultation meetings.
I should bring to your attention that College of Healthcare Chaplains is a professional section of Unite, the Trade Union registered with the Certification Officer.
If these guidelines are the proposal of NHS England, why is a Trade Union being allowed to run a consultation on public policy changes? Surely this cannot be in line with either the 2010 Cabinet Office principles on public consultation or the duty of consultation placed on NHS England by Section 13Q of the NHS Act 2006.
This seems to me to be a worrying development and blurs the line between the role of NHS England and the role of a private membership body , namely the Trade Union Unite in the form of one of its sections, the College of Health Care Chaplains.
I would be grateful for a response as to why NHS England is using a trade union website to run a consultation which may change NHS policy and therefore may affect the services which patients receive.
The guidelines make proposals that will have significant impacts for healthcare chaplaincy for people of specific faiths. This must be seen by them as a significant change.
I am very concerned that the proposed guidelines will not get sufficient or real consultation, and that NHS England by asking a Trade Union to consult on its behalf excludes those who are not members of the Trade Union. Given that some faiths have reasons for not wishing to join Trades Unions, the choice of a Trade Union to run a consultation on healthcare chaplaincy seems at best unfortunate.
I hope you will agree with me that this is an unfortunate and unacceptable way of conducting a consultation, and that the guidelines should include the proper role of faith based chaplaincy rather than focus purely on generic chaplaincy.
I look forward to hearing your plans to remedy this.