In the last few months the number of clergy and their families coming to St Luke’s for help with diagnosis or treatment of a medical problem has reached an all-time high. This is unsurprising given the huge pressures on the NHS due to Covid-19 and the worry that many people with non-Covid symptoms are missing out on the timely investigations and care they need.
You’ve been Medical Secretary for many years: what are the problems clergy come to you with, and have they changed over time?
Certainly over the last ten years I’ve noticed an increase in the proportion of people coming to St Luke’s with a psychological, rather than a physical, issue. Last year I referred 329 clergy or their family members for consultations with specialists – for investigations, diagnosis, treatment or advice. Of these, a fifth contacted St Luke’s because they wanted help with psychological concerns. This probably reflects increased pressure on clergy these days – and is why St Luke’s is also very active in enhancing clergy wellbeing and advocating self-care. As you can imagine, the last few months have been extremely busy.
Can you give an example of how St Luke’s was able to help during Covid-19?
We had a patient who is a teacher and a clergy spouse. She caught Covid early in the year. She mostly recovered, but was left with ongoing problems with her voice and throat (not particularly helpful for a teacher!). St Luke’s enabled her to have a one-off consultation with an ENT surgeon locally to them. This is the response from the vicar:
“We really appreciate your advice and support over this period. It has been tough, but she has been able to resume limited numbers for teaching and will hopefully to be able to go into some of the local schools after half term.”
And what can clergy do to help St Luke’s?
It’s vital that we can tell our supporters how their donations have helped clergy, so we are grateful to everyone who takes the time to tell us about the difference our help made to their lives and the impact it had on their ministry.
Donations from PCCs and collections in churches are a vital part of our income each year and, while we realise that many parishes are facing falling income, we urgently need more donations so that we can continue to help clergy in the future. Clergy can help by putting forward St Luke’s as a charity worthy of support – we have leaflets and information to help to do that.