Muslim staff who work in Bradford’s NHS hospitals have heaped praise on a Ramadan Allies project which has meant they’ve felt “heard and supported” while at work during the holy month.

Around 20 per cent of staff at Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust are Muslim, so the Spiritual Pastoral and Religious Care (SPaRC) Team launched the Ramadan Allies project, which has seen managers pledge to support their Muslim staff. They have been empowered with increased knowledge and resource to create a Ramadan inclusive ethos

The resources include PROP Packs – a bag containing a prayer mat, prayer timetable and other useful items to create the pop-up prayer facility – funded by Bradford Hospitals’ Charity – the official NHS charity of Bradford Teaching Hospitals. Some items have also been donated by members of the community.

Bradford Hospitals’ Charity also funded more than 1,000 FAST Packs for Muslim staff, which contain useful items for fasting, such as dates, a water bottle, a cool bag, and a prayer counter.

The idea of creating pop-up prayer facilities in the wards and offices at Bradford Royal Infirmary and St Luke’s Hospital stemmed from a short phone call from Principal Superintendent in Radiology, Simon Peers, to the SPaRC Team, asking if he could set up a temporary prayer room for his Muslim staff to enable them to pray close-by during Ramadan, meaning they saved time and energy, and service delivery and patient care was uninterrupted.

“I rang to ask what I needed to set up the prayer room,” said Simon. “I think sometimes we don’t ask because we’re worried we might offend, but Rubina and Arshad from the SPaRC Team came down straight away and we set the prayer room up together. It was really simple.

“As managers, it’s vital that we support all our staff. It’s not a big ask. Ramadan is now a normal part of NHS life, so it’s not asking much to find a small space for our Muslim colleagues to pray and continue on with their working lives. It isn’t forever and this makes for happier staff and better morale all-round.”

Simon said he was immensely proud of the Ramadan Allies project which had resulted from his original phone call, and to see the many PROP Pack bags around the hospital.

“I’ve been told by colleagues that they feel heard and supported. One person called me to thank me personally. It was a very proud moment.”

And Simon said he was also proud that the project had opened up the conversation about Ramadan and the Islamic faith, making it easier for his non-Muslim colleagues to find out more.

“We don’t all know about other people’s religions and it’s OK not to know. It’s OK to ask. This has really increased cultural awareness. Our Muslim colleagues feel understood and managers feel empowered to provide support.”

Senior Radiographer Sidra Naseem added that most prayers were done at work, so it helped enormously that the pop-up prayer rooms had been created by the Ramadan Allies.

“Before we had the pop-up prayer facilities, it added pressure because we had to leave the department to go to the prayer room, and it took longer. It’s much more accessible now,” she said.

Muslim SPaRC Practitioner, Rubina Yasin, said they had originally hoped to recruit 30 Ramadan Allies across the Trust, i.e. managers who pledged to support their staff during Ramadan. In reality, around 120 managers have signed up.

“We’re so proud of how the project has taken off and grown,” said Rubina. “It’s such a simple concept. We just wanted to normalise praying during the working day. In reality praying takes as much time as it takes to make a cup of tea. We wanted mangers to see the benefit of providing this support, and they have. Services are not interrupted, and staff are happier.”

Rubina added that more than 1,000 FAST Packs had also been handed out to Muslim colleagues – that’s almost one for every single Muslim member of staff so far.

Bradford Hospitals’ Charity Director, Sharon Milner said she felt honoured that the SPaRC Team had asked the charity to fund the project and all the PROP Packs and FAST Packs.

“Ramadan is a sacred time for Muslims, and we are honoured to play such an important role this year by funding the packs. We pride ourselves on supporting our NHS staff as well as our patients and their families, so this project is perfect for us to sponsor. Our Muslim colleagues are much happier with the extensive support package, our managers feel empowered, and our hospital services can continue to run smoothly.”

Bradford Hospitals’ Charity has also been raising money during Ramadan by inviting Muslim staff to donate Sadaqah, and their no-Muslim colleagues to take part in Fasting Fridays and make a donation.

Anyone wishing to donate to the charity’s Ramadan Appeal can do so at https://bradfordhospitalscharity.enthuse.com/cf/ramadan-2023

Simon Peers

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