Hospitals may have to provide atheist chaplains, according to new NHS guidelines published last week.
The guidance uses the term ‘chaplain’ to refer to “non-religious pastoral and spiritual care providers”, and claims that patients’ experiences are “enhanced by ensuring either religious or non-religious pastoral support is available”.
The guidance, outlining “good practice in chaplaincy care”, replaces a 2003 document and takes into account the Equality Act 2010, which says “religion includes a reference to a lack of religion”.
Step too far
The British Humanist Association (BHA) worked on the new guidance with NHS England, and welcomed the inclusion of atheist chaplains.
But The Christian Institute warned that the NHS is taking equality legislation too far.
A spokesman said: “Chaplains already show no discrimination in dealing with patients whatever their background or belief. Providing atheist chaplains is an exercise in pointless political correctness.”
“Taxpayers’ money should not be spent on this misguided attempt to comply with the perceived demands of equality laws, when they are already met by existing services”, he added.
The BHA’s Chief Executive Andrew Copson said they are looking forward to the day “when all paid posts providing pastoral care in NHS bodies will be open to all applicants without any religious restrictions”.