NHS Lothian and Ramadan - Statement

THERE is no question - despite reports in the national and local media - that staff in NHS Lothian have been ordered not to eat at their desks for fear of offending Muslim colleagues. Nor is there any question that NHS Lothian will be moving vending machines.

However NHS Lothian has a duty to be sensitive to needs of people of all faiths and no faith.

This story stems from an email sent to NHS Lothian and other health boards by a private public affairs consultancy. This email gave helpful background information to organisations across Scotland about Ramadan, a major Muslim religious celebration.

The email contained information on the requirements placed on Muslim colleagues and patients in observing Ramadan.

It contained a couple of suggestions for maintaining productivity. It suggested that working lunches could be difficult for Muslim colleagues who would be fasting, if observing the celebration. It also suggested organisations should consider, if felt appropriate, temporarily changing the route of food trolleys to be sensitive to colleagues who adhere to the Muslim faith. These suggestions - not orders - have been greatly exaggerated in the media and given a force they do not have.

The email was forwarded to a small number of senior managers across NHS Lothian for background information only.

It was not forwarded as a policy directive, nor was it in any way an official NHS Lothian document.

15/08/2007