Bishop of Carlisle welcomes NHS Long Term Plan and stresses importance of spiritual care

On 31st January 2019 the House of Lords debated a motion from Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: “To move that this House takes note of the NHS Long Term Plan, published on 7 January, and the case for a fully funded, comprehensive and integrated health and care system which implements parity of esteem, preventative health and standards set out in the NHS Constitution.” The Bishop of Carlisle, Rt Revd James Newcome, spoke in the debate:

The Lord Bishop of Carlisle: My Lords, this NHS long-term plan is very welcome, and from these Benches I commend all those who contributed to it. It is a comprehensive plan—not easy when health is such a wide-ranging topic. It is also realistic about the many challenges we still face. When it comes to issues such as smoking, alcohol dependence and air pollution, I applaud the strong emphasis on public health and prevention, along with the necessary reminder that responsibility for our own health does not belong solely to other people.

This is also an ambitious plan. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, whom I thank for this debate, referred to it, in true “Yes Minister” style, as “courageous”. In particular—the noble Lord, Lord O’Shaughnessy, reminded us of this—it promises the creation of integrated care systems across England by April 2021 to deliver the triple integration of primary and specialist care, physical and mental health services, and health with social care. This was an important plank in the report of the Lords Select Committee on the future sustainability of the NHS, many of whose recommendations have, I am glad to say, been picked up by this long-term plan. Of course, in practice, as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, pointed out, this integration will be greatly affected by the details of the forthcoming Green Paper on social care, which has been repeatedly postponed. So we look forward to that and, in due course, as we have also been reminded, to the promised workforce implementation plan.

Others have raised questions about this plan. If I have a criticism, it is that I could find no reference within it to spiritual care, which is offered by chaplains so faithfully, day in, day out, not only in hospitals but now in many GP practices. It can make a big difference to health outcomes and to the general well-being of relatives and friends, as well as patients. This is one of the things that the NHS was set up to provide, so it comes as a rather surprising omission. I am sorry if it is there but I have missed it.

That is also a reminder, should one be required, of the need for effective partnerships between the NHS and organisations in the community and voluntary sector that are closest to vulnerable people or which represent the needs of particular groups that are easily forgotten or left behind. I think in particular of those who work with minority ethnic mental health issues, and countless volunteers who are committed to tackling the increasingly prevalent problems of loneliness and isolation, with all the implications they have for the mental, physical and emotional health of elderly people especially.

The Church of England, together I am sure with other faith bodies, will do everything it can to work with everyone concerned to achieve the plan’s goals, for which we are grateful—although, as others have observed, we are only too well aware of the gap that exists for every institution between aspiration and implementation, and the desperate need for adequate resources in and for the NHS.


Baroness Manzoor (Con, Minister)… I agree with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Carlisle that spiritual care plays an important part in health outcomes…

%d bloggers like this: