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Reduction in NHS Chaplains, New Research Shows 

Nearly 40 per cent of Acute Hospital Trusts in England have fewer chaplains than they did in 2009. In addition 47 per cent have reduced the hours that chaplains are on duty

Such are the findings of new research carried out by BBC Local Radio, which sent Freedom of Information requests to 163 Acute Hospital Trusts in England. All bar three responded.

The findings showed that, while a quarter of Trusts have actually increased their Chaplaincy hours, across England as a whole there is a reduction in hours of 8.4 per cent.

The BBC Local Radio research asked the Trusts where Chaplains had left in the last five years if they had been replaced. 36 per cent said the posts had not been filled, and 46 per cent (53 of 114 respondents) confirmed that where jobs had been replaced, they were on a lower pay band or fewer hours.

NHS Chaplains are paid by the NHS, and come from a range of faiths and denominations including Anglican, Roman Catholic, Jewish and Muslim. Their duties range from administering sacraments to advising on ethical dilemmas. NHS guidance notes that all patients have a right to religious observance, and that Trusts should provide both faith representatives and places to pray.

Baptist minister the Revd Mark Burleigh, the President of the College of Health Care Chaplains, explained the service is part of the NHS' duty of care to the patient.

'The hospital is a secular space but the patients who come in, come in with a religious faith. If the hospital provides nothing for a person who has a religious faith then they are failing that aspect of that person's holistic care,' he said.

He added that he understands why the Chaplaincy service is being scrutinised.

'I can't say that Chaplaincy should be immune from pressures faced by all departments in the NHS... As long as the understanding remains that the Chaplaincy service is a valuable part of patient care, and that it needs to be resourced, that safe and dependable care can be offered.'

A spokesperson from NHS England told the BBC there is no statutory requirement for hospitals to provide chaplaincy services, unlike prisons and the armed services.

'However, healthcare chaplaincy has been part of the services available to patients since the inception of the NHS,' the spokesperson added. 

'Locally, NHS trusts are responsible for delivering religious and spiritual care in a way that meets the diverse needs of their patients. 

'Precisely how they do this is a matter for local determination. There is guidance for the provision of chaplaincy services, 'NHS Chaplaincy: Meeting the Religious and Spiritual Needs of Patients and Staff', to support Trusts and to which NHS organisations are expected to adhere. 

'Since responsibility for the service has been transferred to NHS England we are currently reviewing the service, however it is still a matter for individual trusts and faith leaders as to the level of service provided.'

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