Nottingham Secular Society

Nottingham Secular Society


The BBC, CofE and the NHS.

The Unholy Trinity.

During the first half of 2013 the BBC sent Freedom of Information requests to National Health Service Trusts in England. By complete coincidence, so did the combined Secular Societies of Bristol and Nottingham. The BBC chose to send their requests to Acute Trusts,160 in total which represents only 73% of the 218 English Acute, Mental Health and Social Care Trusts. The Secularists sent their requests to all of these.

Both sets of requests concerned the employment of priests in the National Health Service. From the ensuing spin put on their results, it seems that the BBC was out to show that the NHS 'Chaplaincy service' had somehow overwhelmingly suffered during the recession. The corporation’s questions were highly detailed; hugely informed, and were probably designed by an NHS insider; a chaplain and/or senior manager. Anyhow, this is the line which the BBC subsequently spun:

“40% of NHS Trusts reduce chaplaincy hours!”

Over a period of three or four days early in July 2013, the BBC put this message out nationally in broadcast after broadcast with not one dissenting voice. No-one was asked by the BBC to offer an alternative point of view on these programmes. If that wasn’t disgraceful enough, the BBC’s interpretation of the results of their FoI requests bordered on the mendacious, and if nothing else, was certainly extremely misleading. That 87Acute Trusts had not reduced chaplains’ working hours was left aside; nor did they mention that nearly one third of all Trusts had increased the hours worked; around 50% of them significantly so. North East London Foundation Trust increased its chaplaincy hours by 100% (from 37.5 to 75hrs) while just around the corner; the East London NHS Foundation Trust reduced its hours, between 2010 and 2013 by an outrageous 1. Yes, this isn’t a joke, a 1 (ONE) hour reduction in three years. This is even less of a joke, during the same period, Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust reduced the time available for chaplains by 22 minutes! Shock! Horror! The people at Aunty Beeb’s Religious Indoctrination Dept. will have a fit! A quick scan of the BBC’s results shows that a significant number of Trusts had indeed marginally reduced the working hours.According to the Secularists, Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust made one FTE (Full Time Equivalent) priest redundant but the BBC’s figures, not mentioned in the broadcasts, give a very different picture. The hours of working priests increased from 49.1 to 75 at that Trust! One out; two in! Another aspect ignored by the BBC was the number of available vacancies in the NHS for chaplains, who can earn between £21 000 and £56 000pa, and who receive on top of that a “Recruitment and Retention” dole-out of just under £4000. This is to say nothing of the on-call and over-time payments. The Secularists’ research showed that there had been only 6.39 FTE (Full Time Equivalent) redundancies since the last General Election in 2010; whilst today there are 8.75 FTE vacancies; equivalent to 328 hours. In itself, this might seem insignificant, but taken as a whole, it shows the lie behind the BBC’s propaganda. Translated into ‘hours’, it is easy to show that there has, in fact, been a general increase in hours available to chaplains working throughout the NHS in England. During 2008/9 the National Secular Society (NSS) carried out a similar survey of NHS Trusts in the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland. The number of Full Time Equivalent chaplains then was 546 in England alone. Today this figure is 559 (not counting the vacancies). Not only that, but there are more of them working in fewer Trusts! In 2009 there were 165 Acute Trusts, today 160 whilst throughout England the total number of all Trusts has fallen by 19, from 237 to 218. The average number of FTE chaplains per Trust in 2009 was 2.30; today that stands at 2.56, representing a 10% increase in chaplaincy provision in NHS Trusts in England. Two further areas of chaplaincy employment were questioned in the BBC’s Freedom of Information request; the ‘religious make-up’ or as they put it, “The Faith profile . . . “ of the chaplaincy teams and the ‘Agenda for Change’ Banding (pay scales) for each of the faith groups. It appears that this information has not been published by the BBC. A simple little question: why not?

A simple little answer: to do so would embarrass the Church of England, which in the BBC’s eyes, appears to be untouchable; beyond both criticism and censure. The 2008/9 survey by the NSS showed that around 80% of the FTE chaplains were CofE. Moreover, most of these are part-timers doing a second or perhaps, even a third job. For example, Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust has a 1.78 FTE priest establishment and a headcount of 9 chaplains working between them 66.75hours = 7.41 hours per priest and on average throughout the NHS there are 5.4 of them in each and every Trust which indicates a total blessed workforce of around 1200 chaplains. Why would this make the Church of England feel uncomfortable? Because, at around 1000 part time Anglican chaplains, the figures do a wee bit more than merely suggest that the NHS has been swamped, perhaps the word should be infiltrated, by CofE clerics. The NHS is stuffed to the rafters with them.

The Church of England appears to be milking the National Health Service to subsidise its own wage bill! The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, recently vowed to close down a pay-day loan company because of the way it operates. It is a great pity that Mr. Welby is unable to see the logs in his own eye.

CofE apologists claim that ‘Health Care chaplaincy’ is a ‘vocation’ and that it takes six years of training. This is clearly a complete nonsense; with so many working only one day a week, or less, in the NHS, it isn’t in any sense a ‘calling’, and the training has little, if anything, to do with the health of the nation. Their training is for the priesthood – nothing more, nothing less.

Why the NHS employs these people is something of a mystery. They first appear at the birth of the Service in 1948, no-one knows why they are there or who sanctioned them. Here we are 65 years later with the Department of Health unable to say how many clerics are employed and utterly clueless when it comes to the costs involved.

The sums, in hard cash terms, are not inconsiderable. It costs the NHS an average of around £55 000 per annum per FTE chaplain. The costs are made up of wages, recruitment and retention fees, stand-by and overtime payments; National Insurance and Pension contributions; office and administration costs and unbelievably, it also includes the provision and maintenance of churches, chapels, prayer rooms, etc. The NSS 2008/9 survey came across two Trusts prepared to admit paying for organists! The whole package is costing the NHS in England alone, around £30million p.a. and rising. More than enough cash there to re-employ at least 1000 of the 5000 nurses made redundant since 2010.

Probation mentors lose 'faith'!

Members of the Nottingham Secular Society became alarmed, early in March 2012, when the Nottinghamshire Probation Trust launched its "Faith Mentoring Scheme". Alarm bells rang, not just because of the scheme's title, but because a mentor, a member of an evangelical group, commented in an interview with the local BBC radio station that a Trust employee, who was also a group member, had told a church meeting that there were "…opportunities to be had…".

Dennis Penaluna, the Society's President, wrote to the County's Probation Trust seeking assurances that, amongst other things, there would be no proselytizing of probationers. His letter resulted in a meeting with the Trust's Deputy Chief Executive, Sheila Wright, where she began by saying that the letter had opened up an important debate within the Trust itself.

The meeting was described by Mr. Penaluna as, "…full, frank, open and very useful. We discussed the rationale behind the scheme; the use of the word 'faith'; the ways in which its use excluded the majority, the non-religious, from the mentoring scheme and implications arising from the Equalities Act (2010).

"Ms Wright assured me that the Trust would make it absolutely clear to all mentors that proselytizing was totally unacceptable and she would consider having questions asked in probationers 'exit interviews' which would ensure this was the case."

Later he received this in an email:

        "Following our meeting I returned to the organization and commissioned a full review of our recruitment/selection and training process of our mentors. Suffice to say the term faith has been dropped with immediate effect, and we will (be) issuing information on our website and elsewhere to reflect this change."

"Mr. Penaluna added, "Quiet dialogue can be very effective!"

Nottingham Secular Society Challenges City Council.

The decision by Nottingham City Council to charge reduced parking permits fees to those attending religious services in the city on a Sunday while charging everyone else the full amount to park their cars is being challenged by the Nottingham Secular Society.

The Society’s President, Dennis Penaluna, wrote to the City Council in November asking them to reveal how many people would benefit from the exemptions; which Churches, Mosques, Temples, etc were involved and what the annual cost would be to the Council of giving these exemptions.

Mr Penaluna described the reply from the City’s Chief Executive Officer, Jane Todd, as patronising, disingenuous and wholly unacceptable.

“Three questions were asked and three questions were completely ignored. On that basis, the Society submitted a Freedom of Information request on December 6th in order to extract some answers.

He went on to say that, “It appears that in this city when religious groups shout, “Jump!”, the Council’s standard answer is, “How High?”

“We believe that any law, any regulation or any rule should apply to everyone equally, and those who claim and choose to be religious should not be given preferential treatment over the rest of us, and at our expense. The Council doesn’t seem to be aware of the Equality Act (2010).”

Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society said that this situation mirrors what is happening in other towns and cities and that the NSS is considering a legal challenge.

BBC Radio Nottingham

National Secular Society

An Unsubstantiated Healing Claim Challenged.


This is the message that the Nottingham Secular Society will be preaching again and again.

Place your faith, belief and trust in Medical Science.

The Society's President, Dennis Penaluna, recently complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) about a leaflet produced by the church of England, St Mark's, Woodthorpe. They claimed that their god could cure anything: MS. Depression. Cancer. Fibromyalgia. Asthma. Paralysis. Phobias. Arthritis . . . or any other sickness!

The ASA has agreed with the Society that this church of England sect was making unsubstantiated claims and has instructed the church to remove references in its leaflet, to, " . . .healing sickness and the list of medical conditions. " This is leaflet castration. Perhaps the church has a cure for that as well?

Dennis said that he was delighted, but not surprised, with the ASA decision. "Basic common sense and rational thought have won through." He went on to warn though, that "Happy Clappy Healer Sects" like these were springing up all over the country and must be stopped. "Their ridiculous and very dangerous claims can and must be challenged."

BBC Radio Nottingham