Sussex Partnership NHS Trust Spiritual Strategy

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Sussex Partnership NHS Trust Spiritual Strategy

Postby aedwests_human » Sun 07 Sep, 2008 10:57 am

I have just completed the final draft of a response to Sussex Partnership NHS Trust's consultation on their so-called Spirituality Strategy.

The 3rd draft of their Strategy can be found here: ... Draft3.rtf

and the response here: ... sponse.doc

I am grateful to all those who contributed to this response, which has been officially approved by the BHA.

I have asked to be sent any further drafts of the Strategy but expect only to receive the final publication. I will assess this and send feedback to the director of the Sussex Partnership NHS Trust.

I fully expect there will be material for a newspaper article following publication of the Strategy.

Postby aedwests_human » Thu 25 Sep, 2008 3:55 pm

I have received the email below from Richard Harlow (Chaplain of Princess Royal Hospital).

I thought the consultation was for the PCT but, as you can see, it is for Sussex Partnership Mental Health NHS Trust. Rather confusing.

Most of the comments in my consultation reply are still valid though.

The revised Spirituality Strategy can be found here: ... lDraft.rtf

I shall be replying to this in the next few days.

Dear Andrew

Thank you very much for your detailed and helpful response to the draft spirituality strategy.

I have revised the document to attempt to reflect your comments and concerns. I hope you find this draft more acceptable, and would be happy for any further comment.

I have retained the reference to spirituality, whilst accepting that many of your concerns about the word are valid. There are many people who find spirituality a misleading word because of its chameleon like qualities, but it is a word that is becoming current in healthcare and government documents, so I think the best we can do is attempt to describe what we mean by it.

That apart, my concern is that the document is inclusive of those who have humanist beliefs, and I would greatly value your thoughts on that. We are meeting on 6 Oct to discuss this final draft, so can I have a response before then?

Thanks again.

Richard Harlow


Princess Royal Hospital

Haywards Heath

RH16 4EX

01444 441881 ext 8232

Postby aedwests_human » Fri 26 Sep, 2008 12:54 pm

I have sent off final modifications to the strategy. They can be found here: ... ndment.rtf

Many of the BHA recommendations have been incorporated into the document, but the strategy has some major problems that undermine inclusion of the non-religious: no provision for non-religious chaplains, and the continued use of vague terms such as "spirituality".

Spirituality Strategy conference

Postby aedwests_human » Mon 15 Dec, 2008 1:30 pm

I attended a one day training conference on the new Spirituality Strategy of Sussex Partnership NHS Trust for Mental Health on 3rd December 2008. This was mainly for employees of the Trust, but other interested parties were invited.

I set up my Humanist stall, which included an enlarged copy of my Case for Paid Humanist Chaplains; this was the largest of the three stalls and created quite a lot of interest.

The conference was professionally organised and included visual presentations with music, including a live guitarist. Most attendees were nurses.

The key speaker was Peter Gilbert, professor of Social Work and Spirituality at Staffordshire University and the National Institute for Mental Health in England (NIMHE) Lead. He has a holistic approach to mental health and has worked with humanists in the past. He acknowledges that the term "spirituality" is a problem for some people (see later). On several occasions he identified being non-religious with materialism and the lack of a world view, and criticised the recent BHA bus advertisement, attributing it to Richard Dawkins. He also disagreed with psychologist Dorothy Rowe in here recent book "What Should I Believe?", which cautions against the use of religion in mental health.

Malcolm Rae, also from NIMHE, gave more definitions of the human spirit and spirituality. He provided some statistics about the prevalence of mental illness, and pointed to research showing that membership of a faith/belief community enhances longevity. He repeated Peter Gilbert's concern about how welcoming religious communities are towards sufferers of mental illness. He asked the audience about problems providing personal, humane spiritual care. Answers included: lack of time; staff vulnerability; institutional taboo of talking about religion; lack of faith/prejudice amongst staff; peer pressure; over reliance on targets. Suggested solutions included meeting the whole person's needs, assessment of spiritual needs and team work.

Richard Harlow spoke next. He is a C of E chaplain for East and West Sussex and edited the Spirituality Strategy. He gave an example of praying with patients and staff who had visions of a recent suicide on the ward. He invited employees to become Spirituality Advocates within the Trust, and outlined their qualities: secure in their own beliefs, free-minded, not necessarily of faith, sense of equality. They will need to engage with local faith leaders and liaise with the chaplains. As before, he alluded to "secular materialism" that doesn't embrace diversity (I'm not sure what this means though). He wants more information available on wards, staff to challenge stigma (e.g. against praying, including staff), and to fight discrimination (e.g. faith community leaders and the use of alcohol).

Rabbi Pesach Efune emphasised the need for us to respect the elderly, as we will all be old one day.

Imam Abduljalil Sajid, a volunteer chaplain in Brighton since 1976, clarified the distinction between Islam (texts and practices) and being a Muslim (culturally diverse people), and emphasised respect and non-discrimination. He said that his main activity was that of listening (without judgement) and that patients should be treated as individuals, neither religious or non-religious. His advice was for nurses to ask "Am I listening?"

Nikki Jones, mental health nurse, discussed her efforts at creating a sacred space in collaboration with patients and staff, and cited Millview as a good example. It should be non-denominational, warm and inspiring. Patients decorated the walls of the space she created. They had yet to think of a name for it. It has to be locked for health and safety reasons.

I attended two workshops in the afternoon. The first was run by Richard Harlow and Peter Gilbert. Of interest was a woman who declared that Christianity had ruined her life, and that she obtained no support for this over a period of 20 years. She eventually resolved her problems after leaving hospital care. Richard Harlow (chaplain) asked her what she advised. She said simply someone to listen to during the temporary reprieve given by the drugs. She questioned the use of a (religious) chaplain in her case, feeling it would make things worse. Richard Harlow said that he often comes across victims of religious abuse. He advised nurses to bring in a suitable chaplain. A nurse said that each of her 8 colleagues had a different idea of what spirituality was.

The next workshop I attended was run by run by hospital chaplain Stuart Johnson, and was about assessing the spiritual needs of patients using the HOPES questionnaire (you can find a copy here: ... nnaire.htm). We were told that fewer people wanted to identify themselves as having a particular faith and that a multifaith chaplaincy was needed in our pluralistic society. Stuart claimed that meeting spiritual needs was the least satisfied area (DREEM audit of client expectations). We then paired off and tested out the HOPES questionnaire. I had looked at this questionnaire with my partner (who works in the voluntary sector) before the conference; we both found it difficult to use. Coincidentally, the nurse who I was paired with had rewritten the questions, as she found them too complex. We took turns using her alternative copy, and found it much easier (I pointed this out to Stuart after the workshop had finished). Of particular interest were comments made by those attending the workshop. A chaplain working at a prison said that concentrating on religion would alienate the next generation, which is largely non-religious. A nurse asked what would be done with the information gained from the questionnaire. This provoked a discussion on confidentiality and the need to get agreement from the patient on what would be revealed to the staff team. Another person asked how one could distinguish between delusions and "normal" religious experiences. Stuart Johnson (chaplain) said that there were ways. Various hypothetical cases were considered (which opened a can of worms, in my opinion). At the end of the workshop, I had a chat with Stuart. He said that there was a need for a humanist chaplain and would like to get in touch with one (I presume he meant a voluntary chaplain).

I also spoke to the conference organiser at the end, together with Richard Harlow. They both thanked me for my detailed response to the Spirituality Strategy consultation and would like me to make further contributions in future.

My feeling at the end of the conference was that there is a genuine desire to treat mental health patients in a more personal, individual way. It was a pleasure to meet with so many dedicated carers. Unfortunately, religious belief was given center stage; in fact, every case study referred to was a religious one. This undermines the overall goal of holistic care. After the term "holistic" was used a few times, I suddenly realised that the strategy should be renamed "Holistic Care", of which religious belief would be a part (relatively small and diminishing). All chaplains present were religious, including a pagan chaplain from Brighton who discussed a few of her cases (religious again). Most of the comments in the workshops expressed concern and confusion about spirituality.

I will continue to follow the progress of the Sussex Partnership and hope there will be an overall benefit from their Spirituality Strategy.

Re: Sussex Partnership NHS Trust Spiritual Strategy

Postby Andrew Edmondson » Fri 03 Dec, 2010 4:22 pm

Here is a link to an excellent article about the NHS Trust Spirituality Strategy by Robert Stovold of Brighton & Hove Humanists. ... harlatans/

The article shows the self-serving nature of the NHS chaplaincy.

I made a compelling case for giving Humanist and religious chaplains equal status by giving them equal access to funding. But there is an equally strong case that neither should be funded, especially at a time when public money is short.

Robert's article shows that religious chaplains can only provide an inferior service: some of their beliefs are themselves delusional, and others are potentially harmful to vulnerable patients.

My conclusion is that NHS chaplaincy should not be be run by self-serving religious chaplains, as is currently the case. Rather, it should be run along secular lines.

And religious chaplains should certainly never be involved in treatment. Period.
Andrew Edmondson
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Joined: Wed 17 Feb, 2010 8:48 am

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