Several tabloid newspapers reported that nurses at Dewsbury and District Hospital were being asked to suspend clinical work five times a day to turn beds to face Mecca.
Tracey McErlain-Burns, chief nurse and director of patient experience at Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, said that the scheme had been wrongly interpreted by the press.
Nurses at the hospital have been taking a training course to make them more sensitive to the needs of Muslim patients.
The course was conceived by hospital matron Catherine Briggs after she met with members of the black and minority ethnic community to discuss ways of improving the patient experience for this group in hospital.
‘We know that Dewsbury and District Hospital treats a high number of patients from the Muslim community,’ said Ms Briggs.
‘I have been working with Moulana Ilyas Dalal, our senior Muslim chaplain at the hospital, to develop a training package that will better inform staff of the different cultural and religious needs of patients,’ she added.
Changes suggested in the course include positioning the beds of very ill Muslim patients to face Mecca, if requested, providing halal meal options and providing shower facilities so that patients can wash in running water before prayers, as recommended by Islam.
Ms McErlain-Burns said: ‘Nurses are not being removed from their duties to move patients’ beds towards Mecca. Moving patients’ beds for prayer five times a day has not been suggested as part of this workshop and staff have not been ordered to do this.
‘In the context of responding to requests from patients and families, particularly when faced with a very ill patient, it is entirely reasonable that nurses consider all practical steps to meet a patient’s cultural or religious needs,’ she added.
Nurse Beverly Brook, who attended the course, said: ‘I found the training session really useful. Although I already knew quite a lot about the Islamic faith, this gave me a greater understanding.’