Nurses to help Muslim patients face Mecca

Dewsbury, England - Nurses have been told to move Muslim patients' beds five times a day so that they face Mecca when they pray.

The measure by Dewsbury and District Hospital in West Yorkshire is one of several designed to meet the needs of Islamic patients.

Critics claim, however, that nurses' time would be better spent providing medical treatment and ensuring wards were free of infection.


Tracey McErlain-Burns, chief nurse and director of patient experience at Mid Yorkshire NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, said: "In the context of responding to requests from patients and families, particularly when faced with a very ill patient, it is entirely reasonable that nurses consider all practical steps to meet a patient's cultural or religious needs.

"This may include adjusting the position of the bed, or escorting the patient to the chapel or faith centre." She denied that nurses were being removed from other duties in order to move beds.

Staff working at the trust's hospitals have attended training sessions so that they can help Muslim patients uphold their faith daily. Halal menu options have been introduced and special shower facilities have been provided.

Muslims are expected to pray at five specific times in a day, when they should face east towards Mecca - revered as the birthplace of the prophet Mohammed - and, wash beforehand.

The move to embrace Islam came after many Muslim former patients told the trust their treatment would have been better if staff had known more about their religion.

Catherine Briggs, the hospital's matron, said: "In response to these comments I have been working with Moulana Ilyas Dalal, our senior Muslim chaplain at the hospital, to deliver a training package that will better inform staff of the different cultural and religious needs of patients."

The new system has received a mixed reaction from nurses, however.

Beverley Brook, one of the first to take the training course, said: "Although I already knew quite a lot about the Islamic faith, this gave me a greater understanding on how we can make small changes on a daily basis that will really make a difference to our Muslim patients."

But another nurse said: "It would be easier to create Muslim-only wards with every bed facing Mecca than have to deal with this.

"Some people might think it is not that big a deal, but 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 for them to wash before and after prayers, it is bound to impact on the medical service we are supposed to be providing."