Wellington Hospital, which has copped plenty of criticism in recent years for its dilapidated state, may not be elated that it has finally won an award.

The hospital has been given this year's Bent Spoon Award by the New Zealand Skeptics Society for encouraging its nursing staff to claim special healing powers through the laying on of hands.

Society chairwoman Vicki Hyde said she would be dismayed to be treated by a doctor or hospital who did not recognise the important ethical or professional questions raised by the action.

"Delusion or deception is not an acceptable basis for something which is given an approving nod by a publicly funded hospital," she said.

While such therapeutic touch or "healing" might make patients feel better, the hospital had overstepped the mark by trying to take a common psychological reaction and dress it up as some form of special treatment, she said.

In a Holmes television report on the introduction of the service, Wellington Hospital's Dr John Carter had admitted there was no evidence to prove that such practices caused healing.

"Yet he has permitted his staff to make precisely that claim in media publicity, in patient discussions and on signs.

What would the Fair Trade Commission have to say about this? And what position does the Health Funding Authority take on paying for such nursing time?" Ms Hyde said.

One of the society's Bravo Awards this year went to the New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists for issuing a challenge to visiting Australian Ellen Greve, who calls herself Jasmuheen.

Greve, who claimed not to have eaten for the past five years, feeding instead from an inner light within her deeply spiritual self, declined the association's challenge to abstain from any kind of calorific intake for a week - under supervision, despite the offer of $100,000.

She did, however, allow Australia's 60 Minutes to put her to the test - no food for a week - but the test was called off after four days when a doctor noted that all the symptoms of starvation had set in.