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Tuesday 25th October 2016

Faith-based NHS services

12th January 2007

Writing in the BMJ, Aziz Sheikh, professor of primary care research and development, argues for faith-based health services to Muslims.

While many other public bodies are engaging faith communities, Prof Sheikh points out that Muslims have the poorest overall health but little is being done to address it.

There are profound misunderstandings over the largest minority faith community in Britain among its citizens and health policy makers despite a moral, political and legal argument to ensure equitable services for all.

He suggests introducing faith-specific healthcare initiatives in the short term, while developing a ‘mainstream understanding’ of how religion crosses over into healthcare to influence policy.

‘For many British Muslims, religious identity is the essential defining characteristic as it represents the prism through which they see and interpret the world,’ he writes.

Short-term measures include devising a system to flag up medications derived from alcohol or pigs, and provide information on alternatives. Advice should also be available for people taking medication throughout Ramadan.

He also calls for wider availability for male infant circumcision, offering the choice to see a same sex clinician, as well as better access to prayer, 'chaplaincy' and ablution facilities for patients and staff.

Longer-term, more information needs to be gathered on the health and health needs of different faiths, rather than using data simply broken down by ethnicity. He concludes to ensure success, there needs to be more Muslims in senior positions to influence policy.

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