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A £55,000 yearly salary for an NHS Chaplain Team leader has been branded “outrageous” by a junior doctor. St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is currently advertising for a Healthcare Chaplain Team leader, offering an annual wage of £49,036, soaring to £55,049 after three years.
The junior doctor, who voted in favour of industrial action during a recent strike ballot, trained at St George’s but now works for University Hospitals North Midlands NHS Trust. He told Express.co.uk that he was unaware that hospital Chaplains could earn wages so much higher than some frontline medical staff.
“I can’t believe that disparity, I had no clue, it’s crazy”, he said. “They’re great people but the level of work they do compared to ours, that’s outrageous.”
With the exception of doctors, dentists and some senior managers, wages in the NHS follow the Department of Health and Social Care’s “Agenda for Change pay bands”, ascending from Band Two to Band Eight, and staff will earn a starting salary based on the band their role falls into. According to these pay scales, Band Five employees outside of London start on £27,055 a year, Band Sixes on £33,706 and Band Sevens on £41,659, but inside the capital these starting salaries are all higher.
London’s Band Seven employees are eligible to earn between £49,036 and £55,049 and the Chaplain team leader at St George’s falls into this category. St George’s said that their Head Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care role is a Band Eight A position, meaning its starting salary is £55,903 with eligibility for progression to £61,996 after five years.
By comparison, cancer nurses working at St George’s are Band Five employees meaning that they start on £32,466 a year, more than £16,000 less than the starting salary for the Band Seven Chaplain team leader. Chaplaincy roles are also being advertised in higher pay bands than nursing staff at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust.
However, former NHS Trust chairman Roy Lilley said he would expect Chaplains to fall into higher pay bands than Band Five nurses throughout the health service. “I would expect them [Chaplains] to be on a Band Six or Seven, I wouldn’t expect them to be on a Band 5”, he said.
Joan Pons Laplana, who is Project Choice Area Manager for Health Education England and an outspoken member of the Royal College of Nursing, was asked by Express.co.uk whether he believed it was acceptable for Chaplains to earn more than frontline nurses. “My answer is no”, he said. “I know that Chaplains earn more money. I think Chaplains, they go into Band Six or Band Seven and I think they shouldn’t be.”The London School of Economics has been criticised for the “woke” decision to change the names of its terms. It comes after the school decided to change the names of its traditional terms in a bid to be more “international”.
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The 47-year-old did however caution that his primary concern is not with the salaries of Chaplains, but with the salaries of the nurses that have felt it necessary to walk off their wards and onto picket lines.
“The problem of the NHS is not that the Chaplains earn that money, the problem of the NHS is at the moment they are only paying £15 an hour to the nurses and that’s why a lot of them are leaving.” Mr Laplana did however concede that a £55,000 annual salary for a Healthcare Chaplain was extortionate.
“Probably, if you ask me, is this money well-invested in paying £55,000 to a Chaplain? Probably not, that is my opinion. I would rather that, you know, it was to be paid to somebody else… but the Chaplains also play a vital role in the hospital.”
Trying to find a reason as to why Spiritual Health staff are put in a higher pay band than nurses working on cancer wards or in intensive care, Mr Laplana, believes the sheer volume of nurses in the NHS compared to the small number of spirituality workers in the NHS explains the disparity. “It’s about money… if you increase the salary of nurses, there are thousands of nurses in each hospital”, he said.
“It’s a lot easier to increase the salary of a Chaplain, because there are only a handful of them in the hospital… nurses, we’re the majority of the workforce.”
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Mr Lilley claims that medical staff, including nurses, are being “upskilled” by their Trusts, in order to save money. As a result, he says staff are given greater responsibility than their pay band would ordinarily equate to.
“Nurses are doing now what might have been envisaged as a Band Seven job… as a Band Five job. And the reason they’re doing that is that the Trusts do not want to pay people vertical progression… because it costs them a lot of money.
“So what they try to do is keep the nurses lower down on the band if they can.
“People are being upskilled, so you’re paying a Band Five to actually do a Band Six job”, he said.
The result of upskilling, Mr Lilley alleges, is that “healthcare assistants” who are “not qualified nurses” are “doing things that you’d expect a qualified nurse to do.”
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On the question of whether Chaplains warranted an annual wage of £55,000, the healthcare policy adviser argued: “It depends on the value you place on a Chaplain, I found them an enormous source for advice and wisdom. I valued my Chaplain above and beyond the religious context that they brought to their work.”
In response to Mr Lilley’s comments, Norfolk and Norwich NHS Trust said: “All roles are comprehensively reviewed and banded according to the job specifications, responsibilities and level of qualifications required. We value all clinical and non-clinical roles within our Trust and we are proud to offer many career progression opportunities for Registered Nurses, including Band 6 roles and beyond, as a provider of specialist acute services in the region.”
The Trusts at St George’s, Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust and the Department of Health and Social Care have all been approached for comment in response to Mr Lilley’s claims.
In response to the claims made by the North Midlands NHS Trust junior doctor, a St George’s spokesperson told Express.co.uk: “We follow national NHS pay and conditions which are not set by the Trust.”
The Trust also said that their “chaplaincy and spiritual care team is a multi-faith, multi-denominational team offering spiritual and religious care to patients, staff, visitors and volunteers to enhance patient and carer experiences and provide support to our nearly 11,000 staff at St George’s.”
“St George’s is not responsible for setting pay scales and we – along with all NHS organisations – follow Agenda for Change pay scales which are set by the Department for Health and Social Care.”
Phillip Marshall, Director of Workforce and Organisational Development at The Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust said: “As is the case across the NHS, all our posts are banded in accordance with an agreed job evaluation framework (Agenda for Change), with the band determined by the specific duties and responsibilities required of the role.”
The Department of Health and Social Care sought to reassure taxpayers that NHS pay scales were indeed fair: “Taxpayers rightly expect value for money from every penny spent in our NHS, and that is why the Health and Social Care Secretary has asked the NHS and all of the department’s arms-length bodies to publish online organograms showing the job titled and the number of people working in each department.
“Agenda for Change pay bands are based on the demands of each job, and we evaluate each job according to a scheme that was developed through collaboration with NHS leaders, NHS trade unions and independent job evaluation experts – seeking to ensure that NHS staff receive equal pay for work of equal value.”
Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting was unwilling to be drawn, however leader of Reform UK, Richard Tice said his party would “strip out the waste and back office” and that it was “a complete waste of money for the NHS to be employing hundreds of chaplains at much higher prices than what nurses are being paid.”
Express.co.uk has also approached the UK Board of Healthcare Chaplaincy for comment.
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