NHS thanks Muslim staff working through Ramadan and urges care over Eid

NHS leaders have today thanked and commended Muslim staff and key healthcare workers for serving on the frontline and in supporting roles whilst fasting during the month of Ramadan.

The Covid-19 crisis has required sacrifices from all NHS staff, but Muslims and other faith communities have met additional challenges working without sustenance during working hours.

The end of Ramadan will be marked all over the world this weekend, where the Islamic month of fasting and individual, personal observation of spiritual reflection, is set to end. But this year, with mosques and places of worship still closed and other restrictions still in place, Muslims in the UK and around the world are unable to mark Eid Al-Fitr in the traditional way.

As the Muslim community prepare for an end to the first Ramadan held in coronavirus lockdown, as well as the late May Bank Holiday, the NHS has also issued a reminder about social distancing ahead of the Eid festival this weekend, in the same way that other faith communities have also adapted practices through religious festivals, including Easter, Passover and Vaisakhi.

Typically, the festival of Eid sees families come together to celebrate the month’s achievement. It traditionally sees big gatherings, meals, parties, and visiting family and friends, as well as attending special prayers in mosques.

Due to coronavirus, this weekend’s festivities will still be curbed by social distancing measures, so alternative approaches are recommended such as praying at home and communicating with family and friends using phones and video-calling.

Covid-19 has had a disproportionate impact on black and minority ethnic communities with many Muslims losing family members and friends, along with colleagues across the different healthcare professions, including doctors, nurses, health visitors and midwives.

Habib  Naqvi, deputy director of the Workforce Race Equality Standard, said: “I would like to extend warm Eid greetings to all NHS staff, regardless of their faith. Along with the rest of the UK, the Muslim NHS workforce has made sterling efforts and sacrifices to delay the spread of the coronavirus by heeding social distancing and adapting government advice.

“This has been a unique time globally, with festivals of Ramadan and Eid occurring during the peak of COVID-19. Muslims and other faith communities have met these challenges head on, and it’s inspiring to see people using technology for prayer and iftar with family and friends throughout Ramadan.

“This virus has made some of our BME communities more vulnerable, so while coronavirus restrictions still remain in place during this Eid, the key message remains: stay at home unless absolutely necessary, to help contain the virus and save lives.”

In April the NHS developed new Ramadan guidance in partnership with the NHS Muslim Network and the British Islamic Medical Association, outlining key advice to NHS staff and managers working in hospitals and healthcare settings during coronavirus.

The guidance, published on the NHS People website, covers adjustments over working hours and fasting arrangements for Muslim colleagues alongside information and support on Covid-19.

Prerana Issar, Chief People Officer for the NHS, said: “Our Muslim colleagues have been working tirelessly across the NHS, many while navigating the additional challenge of fasting for Ramadan. I am thinking of those who are celebrating Eid this year – it will be very different as people will not be able to mark this important occasion with extended members of their families and their friends and communities as they normally would.

“I would like to wish Eid Mubarak to all our Muslim communities – but also encourage everyone to make use of online platforms and alternative approaches to communicating with our family and friends, and work within government guidelines around social distancing.”

The NHS has a diverse workforce with an estimated 3.3% of the 1.4 million NHS workers being from a Muslim background.  While fasting plays an important central feature in many major religions, there are a number of exemptions where adult Muslims do not fast during Ramadan.