Britain is a diverse society and therefore a compassionate and all embracing
response from our health services is required. If users are to receive care,
which is appropriate and sensitive, then staff need to recognise and take
account of cultural, religious and spiritual aspects of peopleís lives.
Most people become anxious when they are in need of health care, but for
those who are not familiar with the way things happen in hospitals, or do not
speak the same language as those trying to care for them, it can be a
bewildering and frightening time. A person may feel very isolated and
misunderstood. The guiding questions in giving sensitive care are:-
- What would you most like the staff caring for you to know about you?
- What would you most like them to understand?
This resource pack attempts to address some of the main areas that people of
various cultures will be concerned about:
- Family planning
- Blood transfusions
- Care of the dying/death
- Post mortems
- Organ transplantation
These pages are only intended as guidelines and the most important thing,
always, is to ask the individual or the family what it is that they need and
what they want the staff to be aware of. Irrespective of whether or not a person
belongs to a religious or cultural group they will have preferences and needs
which are individual and personal. The individual has a right to have these
wishes respected whilst they are in hospital. There is no reason why an
individual patient cannot have anything they want, so long as it is possible and
does not impose excessively on the rights of others.
The information about each of the faiths listed in this pack has purposely
been kept brief, but should you require any further help or information, there
are local and national contact points listed in the reference section.
It is worth remembering that a personís beliefs about health and illness will
influence their behaviour when they are ill and also their attitude towards
their treatment. Such beliefs arise out of a personís cultural background and
religion. An attempt to understand why this particular person feels as they do,
not only conveys respect for the individual and enhances the staff-patient
relationship, it also enables the patient to benefit from the medical treatment
and care being offered.
General Considerations - All Patients
All patients should be treated equally, regardless of race, colour or creed,
and their wishes respected. All people should have free access to such religious
ministrations as they desire, together with the opportunity to practise their
religion whilst in hospital, as far as possible. The following points will help
staff meet these requirements.
- Each ward and department should formulate its own standard statement,
which should be included in this document and audited regularly.
- Complete all admission documentation accurately and in full, including
documentation of the patient's religious beliefs. Be sensitive, and ask the
patient and their family what is important to them. Offer contact with the
Chaplainsí department, who will find an appropriate religious leader.
- Document, when necessary, any requests to be treated by only male or
female staff, and bring this request to the attention of appropriate staff.
- If the patient moves to another ward, goes to theatre or is transferred to
another hospital within the Trust, ensure that all relevant information and
requests are communicated to the staff who will be looking after the patient.
- Be aware of and respect the patient's dress requirements as decreed by
their faith. This is to include the wearing of religious jewellery.
- Respect dietary requirements. In order that the appropriate dietary
requirements are provided for the patient as quickly as possible, it is
important to contact the Hotel Services Department upon admission to arrange
this. (If the admission is planned, this may even be arranged beforehand.)
Hotel Services are willing to visit any patient in order to discuss their
particular dietary needs.
- Be aware that some patients will want to fast, (i.e. abstain from food for
religious reasons) at certain times. Endeavour to make this possible by making
the necessary arrangements for food to be available before or after the hours
- Be aware of the personal wishes of a patient who may be dying and consult
relatives about what they would wish to happen.
- Ensure that no outward signs of Christianity are visible in the presence
of non-Christians, as this may cause offence. In this respect, it may be
necessary to contact the mortuary staff and inform them that the deceased was
not of the Christian tradition and so to remove any overtly Christian
artefacts from the viewing room, so that sensitivity is shown to relatives.
- Offer the services of the chaplain or other religious leader to bereaved
relatives and friends if it is appropriate.
- Respect privacy at all times. On occasions it will be necessary to provide
the patient with more privacy so that conversations cannot be overheard by
others. This will enable the patient to be undisturbed and feel more
comfortable when speaking confidentially with health care staff, their
relatives, friends, or when praying
- Staff should aim to be well informed with regard to the spiritual needs of
their patients and to show sensitivity towards the individual in this
respect. Such an attitude will aid the build up of mutual trust and
understanding, which in turn is conducive to good health care.