Cost of chaplains to the NHS and the taxpayer

After a discussion on the today programme between Terry Sanderson of the NSS and a CofE vicar about the probity of paying for chaplaincy services out of precious NHS funds the BBC felt it necessary the next day to follow-on with an item justifying the benefit of such services without returning to the question as to who should pay. This struck me as unbalanced treatment and I made an official complaint to the BBC pointing out that Terry Sanderson’s objection had not been to the principle of chaplaincy but to the cost to the NHS.

Further research by the National Secular Society has now revealed that apart from the estimated cost of £40 million to the NHS there is a further cost of approx. £10.3 million to the prison service to fund the 358 directly employed chaplains in public sector prison service establishments in England and Wales. There are also “sessional chaplains” who come into public sector prison service establishments on an ad hoc basis to conduct pastoral duties. But there is no central recording of sessional chaplains, so no indication of how much is spent on them.

There was no central costing for the value of “places of worship” and no separate costings for their upkeep and repair. The MoJ insisted that there were no religious privileges for staff or prisoners, beyond protection from discrimination and “a range of flexible working options and provisions for leave to accommodate religious observance.”  The law requires there to be a chaplain in each prison. There is no equivalent statutory requirement for hospitals.

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