The NHS is committed to recognising the needs of patients and staff from diverse religious groups, and to responding sensitively and appropriately to their needs.

It is estimated that eleven different religious events took place in July 2012.

Key points for the NHS

Many NHS trusts have consulted with staff and reviewed policies and practices to understand faith requirements more fully. Other employers have taken positive steps towards creating a work environment that is more supportive of people of faith – for example, by creating a multi-faith network, marking one or two non-Christian religious festivals such as Eid or Diwali, or by offering a prayer room or quiet room for their staff.

  • Promoting quiet space often identified with religious practice is a way to demonstrate commitment to a healthier and more balanced approach to work practices.
  • Research shows that a certain degree of pressure increases productivity but a working pace or culture that pushes people too hard or precludes regular breaks actually reduces both productivity and creativity.
  • There is a growing body of empirical research showing that meditation and contemplative forms of prayer have a range of measurable beneficial effects on health and well-being, such as increasing the ability to focus and be attentive, helping to manage stress, boosting the immune system, and helping to combat depression and boost creativity.
  • Religion and belief tribunal claims commonly relate to terms of condition of work that make the observance of religious practice impossible. ACAS.
  • In 2007, more calls were made to the ACAS helpline about issues relating to religious observance than workplace dress.

Human Rights Act

Article 9 of the Human Rights Act and the right to hold religious beliefs, and the freedom to hold none, is absolute. However, the right to manifest these is subject to certain restrictions, depending on the particular circumstances.

Potential issues highlighted involving the NHS include: dress codes and the desire to integrate religious wear alongside corporate uniform, and exemption from participation in specific workplace procedures, such as terminations.

Key facts

  • In 2001, the Census collected information about religious identity. Just over three-quarters of the UK population reported having a religion. More than seven out of 10 people said that their religion was Christian (72%). After Christianity, Islam was the most common faith with nearly 3% describing their religion as Muslim (1.6 million).
  • Hindus made up the next largest religious group (559,000), followed by Sikhs (336,000), Jews (267,000), Buddhists (152,000), and people from other religions (179,000). These groups each accounted for less than 1% and together accounted for a further 3% of the UK population.
  • The contribution made by faith communities to civil society cannot be under estimated. Research demonstrates that they make an important contribution to a region’s social and economic life.
  • Religion can be a factor in terms of attaining employment. Research titled ‘Persistent Employment Disadvantage’ was undertaken as part of the DWP’s contribution to the Prime Minister’s Equalities Review. The social factors compared included religion.
  • Potential areas for consideration when addressing religion and belief in the workplace include: recruitment, harassment and workplace behaviours, time-off for religious observance, dietary requirements, modesty, fasting, prayer, dress, monitoring, religious belief and other protected characteristics and occupational guidance.

NHS good practice

  • East Midlands Ambulance Service has worked closely with faith organisations and held a Summit on Religion and Belief that highlighted key issues facing the service through debate, community involvement, dynamic presentations and workshops.
  • The National Institute for Mental Health held a conference titled ‘Making space for Spirituality in Mental Health‘.
  • Addressing the spiritual needs of individuals nearing the end of life in St Michael’s Hospice, Hereford. St Michael’s Hospice in Hereford has developed a spiritual needs assessment tool for people nearing the end of their life. The tool includes open questions about support systems and beliefs and how these may have been changed or challenged by their illness. Once needs have been identified, trained volunteers provide support throughout the patient’s journey.
  • Ramadan Guidance for Mangers published by Aintree University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust on workforce and health considerations concerning Ramadan.
  • Blackburn with Darwen PCT – The Quick Guide to Religion and Belief. A short leaflet on Religion and Belief produced by Blackburn with Darwen PCT.
  • Guys and St Thomas’s NHS FT: Multi-faith chaplaincy team. The multi-faith chaplaincy team at Guys and St Thomas’ Hospital reflects the diversity, ethnic and religious groupings of the hospital staff, as well as the in-patient population and the local population.