Hospital chiefs make U-turn over NHS Muslim prayer beds

Hospital chiefs who ordered nurses to turn around the beds of Muslim patients so they could face Mecca five times a day, have issued a climbdown.

Hospital staff will now only be asked to perform the duty for the terminally ill.

The measures were put in place by Mid Yorkshire NHS Trust to ensure Muslim patients have a “more comfortable stay in hospital”. But nurses were obliged to break off from their health care duties to perform the ritual.

The pilot scheme came after hundreds of staff attended tax-payer-funded workshops with Muslim GPs and ethnic-minority support groups on how best to help patients.

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

They were told the measure should be carried out if “practically possible.” But an experienced nurse at Dewsbury and District Hospital in Yorkshire where the ideas were tested, 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.

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

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Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday December 6, 2007.
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