Letter: Spiritual needs of patients not being met

Reader Julie Burton says that the spiritual needs of many patients are not being met.
Reader Julie Burton says that the spiritual needs of many patients are not being met.

The NHS and the government need a reality check to grasp the bigger picture.

Although our country is currently labouring over an arduous Brexit deal to leave the European Union, Brexit cannot be blamed in its entirety for the departure of nurses from the profession - far from it. We need to engage with the reality of what’s happening from within.

The NHS was built on Christian foundations but these have been chipped away.

In 2011, Archbishop Sentamu was calling for more spiritual help on NHS in a debate in the House of Lords on an amendment of an NHS bill.

The Royal College of Nursing Spiritualty Survey in 2010 by Professor Wilf McSherry highlighted 90% felt spirituality was essential in holistic care requiring equal attention and integration in nursing practice, yet disturbingly 92.2% of respondents felt only sometimes did they meet their patients’ spiritual needs.

Yet the new NICE report guidelines in March 2017 requesting all health professionals be more pro-active in asking about spiritual needs, especially when nearing end of life as only 1 in 7 cases were documented, confirms we have moved no further on.

The new university-based training for nurses was a big mistake replacing the Florence Nightingale Schools of Nursing - apprentice-based training, grounded in theory and practical training.

Florence Nightingale’s Schools of Nursing were hardly secular - student nurses were required to attend chapel and the reading of prayers was permitted on the wards.

Nightingale’s approach to health care was always holistic, chemicals don’t cure but God or nature.

The nurses’ role was to supply the right condition for that healing to take place. I think Florence Nightingale would be saddened that spirituality has been demoted in the NHS and health care systems.

Complacency or political correctness has overshadowed our Christian values and heritage.

•The reality is the UK numbers of nurses have fallen for the first time in history.
More nurses are leaving the register than joining (Nursing Standard - July 3, 2017).

•Older nurses are leaving at a faster rate since the new revalidation process (documented and practical reviews of learning) has come into operation.
It has precipitated an exodus of nurses in their 50s sooner rather than later, the Nursing Midwifery Council reveals (Nursing Standard - July 11, 2017).

•The number of nursing degree applications sparks call for action since a 19% fall in the past year (Nursing Standard - July 13, 2017).
Like Florence Nightingale, Smith Wigglesworth believed that healing came through faith.

An increase of spiritual awareness is needed more than ever in our overstretched NHS!

Julie Burton
Park Lane
Bishop Wilton
York