Wednesday, 20 October 2010

NHS Evangelism

One of the reasons I posted the quote below of Bevan’s  was to illustrate one of the original principles of the NHS, that it’s purpose was to care for the sick.

Over the years the range of services provided by the NHS has grown out of all recognition. And with that growth there has been a blurring of what constitutes sickness, and therefore what might be obtained under the description of treatment, at taxpayers expense.

For a few examples to illustrate this;

Contraceptive services
Infertility treatment
Tatoo removal
Varicose vein surgery

I am not suggesting necessarily that these, and similar treatments, should not be available on the NHS, though I think it a fair guess that they are not quite what Bevan had in mind.

I do draw the line however at this. The active promotion of “faith and spirituality” is not in my view a proper function for the NHS. For a NHS Trust to engage in this is quite abominable, particularly when it seems to be specifically directed at those most vulnerable of patients, those with acute mental illness. No references are supplied to support the highly dubious claims made in this article. No Psychiatrist is quoted as endorsing this practice.

Richard Harlow is Sussex Partnership’s Multi-faith and spiritual care team leader, of a team that consists of 90 (yes ninety) “spirituality advocates”. Further words fail me 

Remind me never to lose my marbles in Sussex.


  1. Homeopathy and the debt helpline also come to mind. Anything that tends to make people happy contributes to our mental wellbeing and therefore prevents or alleviates mental illness, the theory goes. You want research evidence and expert opinion? I'm sure those can easily be arranged. It remains to be seen whether the proposed new focus on outcomes will curb this foolishness.

  2. It is of course all rubbish, and will most likely survive any cuts and redundancies because it's so terribly important, but to be fair, it isn't a team of 90 - they state that 90 people have undergone their training. So they're going to be people (nurses no doubt?) who've attended a teaching session telling them this stuff, which is rather different. A waste of time and money, yes, but not actually employing such a huge team as you make out.

  3. It is also not nessecarily the case that these 90 persons are paid. They may indeed be the equivalent of the hospital chaplaincy.

    Whilst I appreciate the possibilities of abuse, it is important to understand the cultural and spiritual background of a patient to understand whether their symptoms are significant (or not). For example a member of an African Charismatic Church may believe that their spouse has been possessed by the devil, while the same belief in a atheist would have different significance. It is quite likely that the theraputic approach would also need to differ.

    I must also point out that yoga did my back a lot of good when I injured it some years ago.

  4. Hmmmm... Clearly the list of things you have listed as being "dubious" are meant to incite a reaction. You try to get any of those done aorund here on the NHS (Wales) - with the exception of contraceptive services that is! Can't believe you include that - do you want even more unwanted screaming kids and all the unecessary expense of maternity complications?
    All the others have to be considerd on a case by casr basis. Patients wanting these services have to jump through multiple hoops to get them. Less so with VVs, moreso with GRS.
    I can give you several examples of the latter where the person would have prematurely ended their lives but whom have now lived full happy existences giveing back (in one case at least) a helluva lot back to others working as a full time single handed GP (single handed of course as none of the medical profession would consider a partenrship with her).

  5. I did not say that these treatments were dubious, only that the conditions requiring these treatments can not really be called "sickness" in the traditional meaning of the word.
    I specifically did say "I am not suggesting necessarily that these, and similar treatments, should not be available on the NHS" though I have no doubt that there are differing views on this.