East Grinstead NHS trust gets £50,000 Scientology gift

Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead
Image caption Queen Victoria Hospital is renowned for its reconstructive surgery and burns care

A £50,000 donation from the Church of Scientology to an NHS hospital has been labelled "completely inappropriate".

The Queen Victoria Hospital is in East Grinstead, West Sussex, where the US-based church has its UK headquarters.

A spokeswoman said the decision to accept the money was "considered in the context of all relevant guidelines".

Ex-Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb MP said: "It is completely inappropriate for an NHS trust to accept funds from this organisation."

The Church of Scientology has not commented.

'Brainwashing cult'

The church is endorsed by major Hollywood stars like Tom Cruise and John Travolta, who say it is "a force for good".

However, some former members describe it as a brainwashing cult and claim it is a malevolent organisation that preys on insecure and mentally ill people.

The church strongly denies the claims.

Former members say that at the core of Scientology is a belief a space alien called Lord Xenu massacred alien life forms on earth 75 million years ago with hydrogen bombs in volcanoes, and their souls cause all humanity's evils.

The group was founded by science fiction author L Ron Hubbard, who lived at Saint Hill Manor, in East Grinstead.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Church of Scientology was founded by L Ron Hubbard, who lived in East Grinstead

Queen Victoria Hospital, which is renowned for its reconstructive surgery and burns care, turned down a donation from the church in 1994.

A spokeswoman for the Queen Victoria Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said: "We can confirm that QVH Charity received a donation of £50,000 in October 2017 from members of the Church of Scientology.

"The decision to accept this donation has been considered in the context of all relevant guidelines and, as with all donations, it will be included in the QVH Charity accounts which are submitted to the Charity Commission."

Scientology explained

Scientology offers believers a life improvement strategy it calls dianetics.

People take courses of dianetics counselling, known as auditing, in the hope of ridding themselves of destructive influences from their current or past lives.

Scientologists say it is a religion, but a string of defectors have accused it of being a dangerous cult. They allege physical and emotional abuse, brainwashing and unethical fundraising, which the church has always strongly denied.

It has a number of celebrity followers, including Tom Cruise and John Travolta.

Mr Lamb said his "particular concern" was about the impact of the church's "activities on people's mental health".

"Their secrecy and their refusal to be challenged or questioned is deeply disturbing.

"I hope that the Secretary of State and Simon Stevens as chief executive of NHS England make clear straight away that it is not appropriate to accept donations.

"It's a sign of the intense pressure that the NHS is under that this trust decided to reverse its policy of not accepting donations."

The Department of Health said local trusts managed their own resources.

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