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Friday, December 9, 2016
Archbishop Nichols protests at NHS Trust plan to sack hospital chaplains
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 Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham, has condemned the Worcestershire Acute NHS Trust decision to axe all but one hospital chaplain and requested that the decision be reversed. The Health Trust plans to sack six of its seven hospital chaplains, three Catholics, two Anglicans and one Methodist, as part of a series of cutbacks. The Archbishop is working closely with the Anglican Bishop of Worcester, the Right Reverend Peter Selby, to convince the Worcestershire NHS Trust to reverse its decision, which if implemented, would leave just one Free Church hospital chaplain to cover three large hospitals in Worcester, Kidderminster and Redditch. Archbishop Nichols has argued his case in a letter to John Rostill, Chief Executive of the Worcester Acute Hospitals Trust, in which he emphasized that he was 'responsible for the pastoral care of Catholics' throughout the Archdioceses of Birmingham which includes Worcestershire. In the letter dated Thursday 31 August and made public today, Tuesday 5 September, Archbishop Nichols stressed: "For Catholics, access to the ministry of the Church, and in particular the sacraments, is an essential part of life. Despite a welcome growth in co-operation there are specific religious boundaries, which in the end entail that some faith communities can only be ministered to by those of their own faith. The NHS Chaplaincy Guidelines recognise this and NHS trusts are obliged take this into account in their planning." Peter Jennings, Press Secretary to Archbishop Vincent Nichols and the Archdiocese of Birmingham, added: "In his letter Archbishop Nichols has clearly spelt out the vital role of Catholic Hospital Chaplains. "The Archbishop knows that he has the support of the priests, religious and Catholics who have benefited from the ministry of Catholic Chaplains in hospitals throughout the Archdiocese of Birmingham. He would be grateful if letters could be written as a matter of urgency to the Chief Executive, Worcestershire Acute NHS Trust, and also to the media." The full text of Archbishop Nichols letter to John Rostill, Chief Executive of the Worcester Acute Hospitals Trust, follows: "I am writing to express my concerns at the recent decision of your Board to make all but one of your chaplains redundant, including three Catholic Chaplains. We agree with the judgment of the Bishop of Worcester and his Healthcare Adviser that the scale of these cuts means the effective end of the Chaplaincy service. "Since the inception of the NHS all hospitals have provided a Chaplaincy service with chaplains as salaried members of staff. Expenditure on Chaplaincy is a tiny proportion of the overall NHS Budget but adds value to every hospital in the UK. "It seems strange that spiritual care was included in the vision for the NHS at a time of national austerity but is now under threat at the very time when personalised services to the patient are being emphasised. "Recent NHS documents continue to stress the importance of Spiritual Care which importantly cannot solely be equated with Religious Care. These obviously include the 2003 Guidelines on Spiritual Care. "The small Chaplaincy team provides an essential 24 hour service for patients, relatives and staff. The dedication of the team is shown by the fact that all chaplains, and notably the Catholic Chaplains are known to work for more than their contracted hours. I note that the Trust has stated that there is no criticism of their dedication and contribution. "I am responsible for the pastoral care of Catholics throughout the Archdiocese. For Catholics, access to the ministry of the Church, and in particular the sacraments, is an essential part of life. Despite a welcome growth in co-operation there are specific religious boundaries, which in the end entail that some faith communities can only be ministered to by those of their own faith. The NHS Chaplaincy Guidelines recognise this and NHS trusts are obliged take this into account in their planning. "The Human Rights Act enshrines in law the right of the individual to religious observance. This underlines the obligation on NHS Trusts to provide appropriate world faith representatives and worship spaces for faith communities within the healthcare population. It would seem that your proposed cutback could place your Trust in breach of these obligations. "In addition, the failure to make arrangements for Catholic patients to be able to receive the sacraments, should they so wish, can become a source of major anxiety to them. It will directly and deleteriously impact on their health and healing. "The lack of effective co-ordination which will be the effect of your proposed redundancies will very seriously affect the future ministry of Catholic part time chaplains and volunteers to patients. It also seems only just that the unique contribution of our Catholic chaplains should be recognised by their remuneration as members of the Hospital staff. "Furthermore although you have stated that chaplains are members of the 'corporate team' we strongly contend that our chaplains are above all involved with the care of patients, relatives and staff and are part of the 'front line services', which you rightly wish to preserve. "We hope that this decision can be reversed and that we can work together to develop a Chaplaincy Service which provides for the spiritual and religious care of patients, their relatives and staff within the Trust. I await your comments." Source: Archdiocese of Birmingham
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