'Faith-specific' care urged for Muslims

Professor Aziz Sheikh of Edinburgh University argues that Britain's 1.6 million Muslims have the poorest health profile of any minority.

British Muslim 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
British Muslim 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
A British Muslim academic called on Friday for "faith specific" health care for the country's largest minority faith community. Writing in the British Medical Journal, Professor Aziz Sheikh of Edinburgh University argued that Britain's 1.6 million Muslims have the poorest health profile of any minority. "There are few faith-centred initiatives aiming to improve health outcomes for our largest minority faith community," he wrote. "This reflects the general failure among academics, policy-makers and clinicians to appreciate the particular needs faith communities may have." Sheikh said the state National Health Service should implement a system to record the religious affiliation of patients, saying this would allow Muslims to see doctors of the same sex as themselves and also avoid pork and alcohol-derived drugs banned by their religion. Sheikh, who is professor of primary care research and development at Edinburgh University, said infant male circumcision should be provided by the NHS, so poorer parents would not have to resort to what he called the poorly regulated private health sector. He also wants better prayer facilities for Muslims in NHS hospitals. A Department of Health spokeswoman denied any discrimination against Muslims, saying services were decided locally according to clinical need and "the diversity of the local population." "All patients are entitled to ask to see doctors of a certain sex," said a spokeswoman, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with department policy. She said the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, which regulates provision of health services in Britain, has not approved the provision of infant circumcision. But another Muslim academic, Professor Aneez Esmail of Manchester University, warned that providing special services for defined groups risks stigmatization and stereotyping. "While it is reasonable we try to plan and configure our services to take account of needs that may have their roots in particular beliefs...we cannot meet everyone's demands for special services based on their religious identity," he said. "It would not be practical."