Archbishop calls for NHS bill to cover spiritual health

Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu Humans are spiritual entities, says the Archbishop of York

Spiritual health must be a feature of the NHS bill for England, the Archbishop of York has insisted during debate in the House of Lords.

Dr John Sentamu told peers: "I am one of those who believe that human beings are psychosomatic spiritual entities."

The archbishop then told how he freed the spirit of a young girl, left petrified by seeing a goat sacrificed.

During a debate on an amendment he said: "Illness can be physical or mental but it can also be spiritual."

The amendment, tabled by psychiatrist and crossbench peer Baroness Hollins, called for the words to be inserted into a clause about the duty of the secretary of state, the NHS Commissioning Board and clinical commissioning groups to improve the quality of services.

Making his case, the Anglican archbishop argued that schools now emphasised students' spiritual dimensions, and said hospital chaplains' work addressed spiritual issues, as well as the physical and mental.

Witches' coven

He also told how when he first became a vicar in south London, he was invited to a home where there was "a presence", a phrase he said he did not understand at the time.

At the home, he said, he found a young girl who had been unable to move for nearly three weeks and would shout out in the middle of the night.

He was told the family had been to a witches' coven where a goat had been sacrificed. The young girl was petrified she would be next.

Visits from a GP, psychiatrist and psychologist did little to help, he said, but then he said a prayer, anointed the girl and lit a candle on his visit.

You can see the Archbishop's contribution 3hrs 23mins into this video

Shortly after, he received a phone call saying the girl was no longer terrified and was talking again.

"That was not mental or physical illness; there was something in her spirit that needed to be set free," he told his peers.

Dr Sentamu, 62, acknowledged the importance of highlighting mental and physical illnesses, but asked whether they needed to be spoken of "in almost separate categories" in the bill.

"I do not want to divide up a human person. Therefore, I believe that the bill covers people's needs without inserting the words 'physical and mental'.

He said he was "content" that the bill, as it stood, covered all aspects of the human person simply by using the word "illness" .

"The element of the spiritual well-being of people is not on the face of the bill but I am absolutely convinced that, as it stands, my needs would be taken care of because it talks about 'the prevention, diagnosis or treatment of illness'."

The Health and Social Care Bill, if passed, would see GPs and other clinicians given much more responsibility for spending the budget in England, while greater competition with the private sector would be encouraged.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    Is it wrong to consider what it is to be human? We are not just physical, emotional beings. It is only when we address our spirit do we have a sense of who we are. In these times when many are suffering, having a spiritual dimension helps people many cope and become valued members of society, by giving back. Being concerned with spiritual wellbeing is a good thing so long as it is not enforced.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    Faith,or religion in its alternative guise is something that is in ones thoughts,nothing more.
    If like minded people want to support each other so be it But I do not wish to pay a tax to help those indoctrinated and brainwashed into believing in a mythical being that is different to each "Religion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    Why are journalists so totally useless?

    If someone told me that they had "freed the spirit of a young girl", I would ask them exactly what they meant by "spirit" and exactly how they "freed" it.

    Yet the empty-headed journalists just write down this otherwise meaningless claim and their equally empty-headed editors see fit to publish it on a major news site!

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    Are the public happy when smokers and alcoholics receive NHS treatment, then go home to continue their habbit - which is the underlying cause! Spiritual healing, may, help to bring upliftment and, yes healing, to the fear, anxiety, negative emotions that can lead to chronic psychosomatic conditions (RE metaphysics). Speak to NHS managers employing Spiritual Healers & patients seeing the benefits.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    it would be nice if the nhs saw people as human beings firstly, and had an holistic joined up way of treating them from cradle to grave......

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    Absolutely NOT acceptable! The NHS heals the sick, this includes psychotherapy for the mentally ill. Idiocy is not a illness. No one should be encouraged to believe in fairy stories by the state. Tolerate it by all means, but do not spread it as fact. Adults who believe in fairy tales should be educated as to their mistakes, not encouraged to keep being wrong!

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    Spiritual health? Isn't that the responsibility of the clergy?

    Perhaps while the medical profession wrestle with theology in addition to all their other duties, the Archbishop will be added to the GP rota at his local NHS surgery? Or maybe does a regular stint in A&E?

    One way to shorten waiting lists!

    And just why are Archbishops still in the Lords? Separation of Church & State anyone?

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    Ostangle - mind, body and spirit are linked.

    If we were ONLY to focus on physical then the underlying cause might never be addressed, the physical ailment could return - costing money again. May I suggest that a sensible HOLISTIC approach is indeed a sensible approach. "Religion" has negative connotations - but go to your local Spiritualist Church, no creed or dogmas.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    The Archbishop is quite right. Exorcism services should be provided on the NHS, subject to a small prescription charge for the candles. But anyone making fake claims of possession ("benefit fraud") should be named and shamed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    What a TERRIBLE idea. True spirituality is a personal journey, not Religion which is taught usually by old bearded men and indoctrinated by parents to their children.
    What next, the thought police?

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    No, No, No, No, No, No, No! While I accept that some people gain some benefit from their beliefs this it is not the role of the NHS to provide treatment based on superstition. Provision of spiritual care is the role of the various religions - that is when they can spare the time from their involvement with money and politics.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    Spiritual Healing does not have to cost anything
    maybe just petrol money.

    Go to your nearest Spiritualist Church - for healing it's
    donation only.. if you can't afford anything you
    don't pay! simples

    This is Spiritual Healing given by volunteers.

    Hospitals & Hospices can easily take on
    qualified Spiritual Healers at minimal (if any) cost.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    Oh please, the guy is clearly off his head. The NHS should concentrate on fixing physical health. Mental health perhaps if it relates to physical problems.
    The government should spend more time and effort stopping councils charging too much to use the gym (over a fiver a session at my gym), and stop them closing school facilities such as tennis courts in the summer holiday.

  • Comment number 33.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    A good book worth reading is Ekhart Tolle "A new earth".

    We need to move away from Ego (fear, insults, hate & jealousy)
    ..maybe start by education in schools

    Then realise it's about being still, in hormony & love to others (e.g. spiritual healing).
    Healing is god's gift to mankind. Unfortunately at the moment we are in an
    age dominated by false celebrity & materialism

    I believe it will change.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Okay... Lets tot it all up here... There's how many Hospitals in the NHS, so they're all going to want at least one chaplin (taps on calculator)... They're going to want to earn a decent wage (tap tap tap) and we're going to need multi-fath, so lets say the christians will share, we'll need a rabbi, a muslim, a hindu, a buddist, a pastafarian, a discordian (tap tap tap). Who's paying for this?

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    And just how are busy doctors and nurses going to minister to the spiritual well-being of so many diverse faiths, not forgetting those who are agnostic or atheist? Sorry, Bishop, but you're thinking you're still in the Dark Ages.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    The NHS is already wasting money recruiting hospital chaplains at around £34k p.a. whilst having to cut back on essential services. What's he got to say about that?

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    One doesn't "pay for spiritual healing" - it is the time of the
    healer. Though many do offer their services free of charge.

    One should consider that the NHS is "not free". Paid
    for by taxes.

    "Mind over matter" and is has been argued that our state of mind
    does affect our health - therefore spiritual needs should be covered.

    The Archbishop does more good than bad by his views.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    The last time I checked there seems to be more churches than hospitals ... maybe they start funding medical care, the Catholic Church can probably spare a bob or two...


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