Hospital staff told to make sure Muslim patients’ beds face Mecca five times a day

Update: Hospital chiefs make U-turn over NHS Muslim prayer beds

The job of the nurse used to one of caring for the sick and needy.

But not – it would seem – in today’s politically-correct Britain.

Now, nurses are being encouraged to spend valuable time turning around the beds of Muslim patients up to five times a day – so they can face Mecca.

Hospital staff in West Yorkshire must make sure Muslim patients’ beds face in the direction of Mecca, in Saudi Arabia

In a bid to promote cultural understanding, they are also expected to provide patients with running water so they can wash before prayer.

And then, of course, they are required to turn the beds back around to return the wards to normality. The measures are being pursued by Mid Yorkshire NHS Trust to ensure Muslim patients have a “more comfortable stay in hospital”.

Hundreds of staff have attended tax-payer-funded workshops with Muslim GPs and ethnic-minority support groups on how best to help patients.

During these meetings, nurses have been told that if a patient asks for water to bathe in, or for their bed to be turned to face Mecca, then this should be considered.

If the measure is deemed “practically possible” and does not impinge on other patients, then it should be carried out.

And if it is not practical, nurses are encouraged to find them a bed that faces Mecca permanently.

But an experienced nurse at Dewsbury and District Hospital in Yorkshire where the ideas are being tested, has blasted the scheme.

She said: “It would be easier to create Muslim-only wards with every bed facing Mecca than deal with this.

“We have a huge Muslim population in Dewsbury and if we are having to turn dozens of beds to face Mecca five times a day, plus provide running water before and after prayers, it is bound to impact on the essential medical service we are supposed to be providing.

“Although the beds are designed to be moved, the bays are not really suitable for having loads of beds moving around to face a different direction and, despite our best efforts, it does cause disruption for non-Muslim patients.”

Conservative MP David Davies also criticised the idea, saying: “Hospitals should be concentrating on stopping the spread of infections than kowtowing to the politically-correct brigade.”

The workshops – led by the hospital’s chief matron Catherine Briggs – looked at Muslims’ religious concerns over being in hospital.

A key part of Islamic faith is praying five times a day to Mecca, Saudi Arabia – revered as the birthplace of the prophet Mohammed.

Muslims are also meant to wash themselves in running water prior to prayer.

Although staff said they would do everything possible to help patients fulfil these obligations, a request by Muslim women to be seen by female-only doctors was not guaranteed.

The scheme comes just a year after some NHS hospitals introduced Burka-style gowns for Muslim patients who did not want to show their face during operations.

Yesterday, a spokeswoman for Mid Yorkshire NHS Trust confirmed that nurses were encouraged to help meet individual requests.

She said: “Nurses have not been ordered to move beds or provide running water – they have just been encouraged to help meet patients’ needs wherever possible.

“If a sick patient requests that their bed be moved to face Mecca, then it is right that the hospital looks at this request – even if it is more than once a day.

“If it is practically possible – and is not inappropriate or inconvenient to nurses or other patients – then it is right that nurses try and carry it out.

“We can also try and move the patient to a bed that faces Mecca permanently.”

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Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday December 5, 2007.
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