JUNE 24, 2019 by Stephen McLaren
Biological Garage?

Enhancement of the biological garage ?

When Donald Dewar(1st Minister Scotland), ably assisted by Susan Deacon as health minister, initiated the root and branch review of the NHS Scotland 2003, it was driven by a desire to maximise the effect, whilst minimising the huge and growing funding requirement, as it tried to deal with the seeming insatiable demand for a healthier Scotland.  The review unearthed many aspects, one of which was the fact that as society had changed, there were large numbers of the population who did not fall naturally into a Christian mindset, being either of different adherence resulting from immigration, or indeed of no religious adherence at all.  At some point in the process, it was mooted that there was benefit in health care outcomes if the psycho/sociological needs of its patients were met, as well as their essential clinical/physical needs.


Thus was born spiritual care, for all faiths and none.  The HSS was an obvious candidate to nominate non-religious participants in the evolution of this and with secular humanist input, there was a scoping study and then the setting up of a spiritual care development committee (SCDC) which was charged with the implementation of that policy, defined by the HDL 2002.  Various local committee structures followed, some more active and inclusive than others.  Some area boards chose not to adopt the local committee structure, relying as they did on already existing communication routes.  Committees comprised of representation from all the major faiths, and a humanist.


Due to a change in the structure of the HSS governing body, RMcL became involved in the existing SCDC,  as a newly appointed HSS national secretary, early enough in the process to ensure that humanism be adequately defined in guidance documents which were designed to acquaint NHS staff with the diversity of their patients. There followed many meetings at which the implementation of spiritual care policy was monitored and redirected.   Two years ago, the Scot Exec saw the need to redefine the original HDL guidance, in the light of experience, and that saw the birth of a Sub committee of the SCDC, known as the HDL review group.  Having established oneself as ‘safe to engage with’, RMcL was nominated as one of the review group.  That brought about the opportunity to ensure predominance to the new orthodoxy of ‘spiritual care’ rather than of chaplaincy/religion.  


Our research project discussion/debate and to some extent, disagreement, surrounding this whole subject seems to be with the word ‘spirituality’ due to its strong connotation with religion.  Exacerbated by the fact that the chaplaincy organisations have seized on it as a lifeboat, as they face in their respective religious homelands, the interminable decline in both their flocks and the level of demand from those who find themselves in the care of the NHS.  When I exposed on Monday past, for the first time, our list of patient needs to a group of nurses attending an equality/diversity teach-in, their reaction was one of assent and indeed comfort with the premise that such was part of their role as a 24/7 caring profession.


So re-name it ‘well being’ ?!   Of course, that won’t shake loose, the present chaplaincy hold on this, but it will allow for a more apt implementation of the concept, via those who are ever present on the wards. And the chaplaincy beast will eventually perish as sharp pencils review the business case/cost benefit of submissions of their raison d’etre.


That will deliver a better ‘well being’ than that which emanates from a hierarchy of religiosity.  The NHS becomes truly secular and the original Dewar/Deacon objective is achieved.

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