Sunday, February 01, 2009

No Prayer on the NHS

A nurse in Somerset has been suspended after offering to pray for a patient. And there was me thinking that spiritual care was something the NHS recognised, given that they employ chaplains. I understand the point about not forcing your views on people, but an offer to pray and an 'ok' if the patient says no is hardly brainwashing the vulnerable.

It's not clear* whether this is being driven by the patient or by the Primary Care Trust. If the latter then it's another example of this sort of thing**, a hypersensitivity to 'causing offence' under the rubric of 'diversity and inclusion'. Smooth words, but they are a bit of a velvet glove sometimes.

*Correction: the patient didn't complain about what happened, the disciplinary action is at the instigation of the health trust hierarchy. Some of the TV coverage is here. The official line is that she shouldn't "promote causes that are not related to health". So they think that offering to pray for someone is a) promoting a cause and b) not related to health? Hmmm.

Update: Cranmer has a more extensive post on this.

**Handle with care. 'Chaplain abolishes Apostles Creed at Sandhurst' is a good headline, but the source is the Daily M*il, so it's probably untrue.


  1. Even though I have a suspicion of the sources (Daily Mail & Daily Telegraph) for the way they sometimes spin such stories, I think these two instances should be investigated, and action taken. The creed is a helpful statement of the vision of God Christians across the board have held for almost 1700 years, and the nurse does appear to have a significant point. It feels as though the patient registered some surprise, which was picked up by someone, possibly someone out to get her, in the trust. Ugly stuff.

  2. According to the North Somerset PCT, on their guidance for employee stress:
    "Employees should be encouraged to review their personal mission and personal values, along with corporate values and goals. They should be encouraged to take time to reflect, and to balance all aspects of their lives – physical, psychological, social, spiritual and emotional."

    To suspend bank staff that give patients the choice (and only a choice) to consider their spiritul and emotional aspects of their illness beyond the physical and psychological one seems like it is intolerant; only allowing an atheist perspective on care. A social one, would allow for the probability that 70+% of patients may believe in god and giving them the choice. It does not assume that <10% who actively don't believe in god, must impose that single option on ALL other patients. Giving a choice for prayer, is only a choice. I don't get offended if a doctor offers me a cup of tea when I only drink coffee - but it seems intolerant to ban doctors from offering a cup of tea, just because some people only drink coffee.

  3. I did dare to suggest a less critical view of the PCT yesterday.