HEALTH chiefs have been criticised for paying universities to design undergraduate degrees in “spirituality”.
NHS Scotland is set to pay £3,000 to universities to develop undergraduate degrees in “spirituality in health and social care”.
The undergraduate degree will be the first ever of its type in Scotland and will train a new generation of chaplains.
Healthcare chiefs have been pushing for the NHS to “treat patients as people” – addressing their mental and spiritual spiritual needs as well as treating medical conditions.
But a taxpayers’ organisation claimed the funding for the new degree was an example of “NHS mission creep”.
The new three year degree, revealed in an NHS Scotland tender document, will be targeted at those hoping to take up an NHS position as “specialist spiritual care providers”.
A key aim of their work includes coordinating spiritual care among staff in hospitals, as well as working with patients themselves.
The tender document explains: “Subject to acceptance of the proposals in response to this tender NES will provide a sum of £3,000, excluding VAT, to each higher education institution to further develop their proposal into a comprehensive final project report.”
Asked to explain the spirituality degree, an NHS spokeswoman said they were “looking at the future development of an integrated educational pathway for Health and Social Care Chaplains”.
She said the degree would involve a “wide range of subjects pertinent to working both within the speciality and within the wider, multidisciplinary health and social care setting – including components related to skills, knowledge and personal development”.
The spokeswoman added: “NHS Scotland is committed to person-centred care, part of which is the commitment to addressing the religious and spiritual needs of patients, staff, relatives, carers and service-users.”
Eben Wilson – director of the Taxpayer Scotland advocacy group – said the contract could be an example of “mission creep”, where an organisation gradually changes its goals with no end in sight.
He explained: “This is another mission being invented that lets one public body use our money to pay another public body to work up ideas.
“Taxpayers could obtain better value if ideas were asked for on a speculative basis.
“The private sector pitches for work all the time this way, it should not be assumed that taxpayers money always has to be used within these cosy public-funded arrangements.”