Published: 19/08/2004, Volume II4, No. 5919 Page 9

NHS patients seeking spiritual help may soon be able to benefit from an NHS Direct-style phonea-chaplain service as part of proposals to ensure better access to religious care and support, particularly for minority faiths.

The report prepared for the Department of Health by John H. James, a former NHS chief executive, suggests that an NHS 'chaplaincy direct' service with a single phone number might be 'particularly helpful' for thinly spread faiths.

Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Sikh, Zoroastrian and Bahß'i faiths are among those whose members Mr James believes would benefit from the line. But with the Roman Catholic church in England expecting 'a significant shortfall' of priests by 2014, it would also be of benefit to Catholics.

His report, which was compiled with the help of multi-faith groups, paints a picture of a service that has developed in a piecemeal way, with the main faith groups that have been established in the UK for the longest time having a more structured approach to training and providing priests or other spiritual advisers.

More than 330 of the 425 wholetime, and 1,700 of the 3,000 part-time chaplains are Anglican.

The Church of England pays£150,000 a year to meet the cost of the Hospital Chaplaincies Council which is responsible for organising the supply of Anglican chaplains but can run courses for any faith.

Although ethnic minority groups have increased over the last 35 years, Mr James says structured arrangements to provide help with spiritual needs after bereavement have lagged behind.

The Jewish Visitation Committee receives around£100,000-a-year from the DoH to to organise Jewish chaplaincy services in London and the South East, but there have been concerns that Jewish communities in Manchester and Leeds are losing out.

Mr James says that future DoH funding should be contingent on an agreement that the service covers the whole country and that any trusts which have in the past benefited from free rabbinical services should pay for them.

Chaplaincy services in the Muslim community are selffunding and resources are limited.

Mr James calls for new funding to support the development of a Muslim chaplaincy and act as a resource for the Muslim community and to support the development of a chaplaincy for Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Sikh, Zoroastrian and Bahß'i faiths.

Last month, HSJ reported that the NHS was due to recruit four 'super-chaplains' (news, page 3, 15 July) to work across different parts of the country to 'drive and improve' spiritual healthcare. The appointment of super-chaplains were included in the recommendations of Caring for the Spirit, published by South Yorkshire workforce development confederation. The confederation has taken a national lead in developing spirituality issues in the NHS.

www. hsj. co. uk Health Service Journal 19 August 2004 9