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Accommodating Faith within the NHS

Professor Aziz Sheikh of Edinburgh University recently commented on the need for more specific health services for Muslims, this was welcomed and broadly supported by the Muslim Health Network. The Network has always been committed to highlighting the dire state of health, health education and provisions amongst the UK’s Muslim communities. Recent quantitative and qualitative research has unmistakably revealed some of the common health related issues which are prevalent in higher frequencies within Britain’s second largest faith group.

Though culturally and ethnically diverse, the Muslim community does share a generally homogenous spiritual and theological basis, and it is this feature which should be utilised to assist in improving access and quality of health care. However the Network is unequivocal in its view that the specific services mentioned by Mr Sheikh should backed with a multi-cultural and wider community impetus.

With this in mind, the recording of religious denomination within primary and secondary care would no doubt be a useful empirical resource for research, targeted treatment and redressing health inequalities. In particular male circumcision is a common religious requirement for the Jewish community and its instance is growing amongst the public in general, similarly there are non-Muslim individuals who would prefer to be examined and treated by same sex health practitioners. As the prayer is a central daily five-time theme within a Muslim’s lifestyle, it goes without saying that prayer facilities should be available for Muslim staff and patients, with dedicated prayer rooms or multi-faith rooms with designated areas for prayer. A further factor for emphasising and implementing the proposals would be higher ethic minority conurbations.

In contrast the Network feels that Manchester Universities’ Professor Aneez Esmails assertion that such services would stigmatise the community is somewhat overstated and mistaken, as is the viewpoint that faith groups would support practices such as female circumcision, which is widely refuted within Islam and blood transfusions, which are seen within Islam as important, by way of giving and taking, for the preservation of life. Holistically speaking the suggestions made would be for the betterment of our societies health as a whole.


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