Should the NHS be cutting its Chaplains?
The National Health Service (NHS) is a world renowned British organisation for providing top quality medical care. Care that is free to the patient at the point of delivery.
It is an organisation constantly undergoing change. Change because of advances in medicine, change to make it more efficient (which, unfortunately, seems to have the effect of making it less caring) and change because of political meddling. I use the word meddling deliberately because some changes seem to be just a way for a politician to make a name for him, or her, self.
As far as curing and mending goes, the NHS does a brilliant job. Some people cannot be cured and no one with a modicum of common sense expects a 100% success rate; medicine is still, and always will be, an inexact science, albeit that it is becoming better understood all the time. In cases where a cure cannot be found or a broken body be mended, the NHS still care wonderfully for their patients, and alleviate their suffering and pain as much as possible, but what about healing?
I make the distinction deliberately between curing and mending, and healing.
The BBC news recently reported that, nearly 40% of hospitals had cut their provision of chaplaincy services. Whilst the the medical staff are there to provide cures and palliative care it is, to a big degree, chaplaincy that can provide the healing.
The cost, or price, of Chaplaincy are of the kind that politicians really dislike, not because of the actual expense itself, which is relatively low for the benefit provided, but because Chaplains benefits can not be quantified in pounds, shillings and pence, ok, pounds and pence; a bit of nostalgia creeping in.
Good chaplaincy can assist healing even when a cure is not possible. It can give assistance to the patient, to the medical staff who care for them and to friends and family who care about them. It can help a person with a chronic condition live with it and it can help a person with a terminal condition to accept it.
In a previous post, Clutching At Straws, I touched on the subject of, and the distinction between, curing and healing. Using an example from the Bible of the time Jesus brought Jairus’ daughter back to life, I showed how the girl was cured, or mended and how Jairus was healed. A similar scenario is played out when Jesus healed a Roman officer’s trusted servant, in Luke 7: 1-10. Here, again, the servant is cured but it is the Roman officer who is healed.
The Chaplains in our hospitals play a far greater role than I think they get credit for. Chaplains can provide healing when the hospitals can give only a cure and the healing they enable to take place, will often extend beyond the medical treatment and the patient.
If all we want is cures, or palliative care, then go ahead ditch the chaplains but if we want healing, then we need to think twice before making the cuts to chaplaincy services.
I remember when I used to sit on hospital beds and hold
people’s hands, people used to be shocked because they’d
never seen this before. To me it was quite normal.
– Diana Princess of Wales
- NHS chaplaincy services cut by 40% (bbc.co.uk)