A job advertisement put forward by the NHS for a 'reiki/spiritual healer' to work within the breast cancer unit of a hospital in Essex has been branded "surreal" and a "waste of money".
The British Humanist Association (BHA) condemned the decision to recruit for a healer to work at St Margaret's Hospital in Epping, part of The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust, on a fixed term, two sessions-a-week contract worth £22,000.
In a cutting comment about the ad, which will be taking applications until 22 October, the organisation tweeted: "That's £22,000 better spent on medicine and more nurses."
The ad, for a complementary therapist treating eight patients a week, states: "The therapist will provide Reiki/Spiritual healing to patients to enable them to cope with the emotional, physical and spiritual issues of dealing with their cancer journey.
"Epping Breast Unit is one of the largest breast cancer research facilities north of London. The unit takes holistic approach to patient care. For this role you will need a National Federation of Spiritual Healers qualification or Reiki Master Usui System qualification."
But the BHA compared a reiki diploma qualifying you to treat patients to "the equivalent of a diploma in Klingon qualifying you to translate for the UN".
They also said: "Another equivalent: hiring someone to help on a building site because they once won a Blue Peter Badge for best papier mâché construction."
However, Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust defended the ad and said that the position would not be funded by the NHS.
In a statement, the Trust said: "This post, which is for a year only, is funded charitably and not from NHS resources.
"The decision to advertise it was approved at a senior level after many of our breast cancer patients reported that they found Reiki sessions hugely comforting and relaxing.
"It is well-documented that a patient’s psychological and mental well-being plays a significant role in how well they recover from serious illlness.
"However, whilst Reiki and other complementary therapies are widely used in the NHS alongside clinical treatment, it is important to stress that they are complementary therapies, not alternative ones to conventional medicine. This position will be reviewed both during and at the end of the 12-month period before any decision to renew it."
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