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NHS bosses issue warning over Ramadan health risk in Tower Hamlets

PUBLISHED: 13:00 01 July 2010 | UPDATED: 16:13 05 October 2010

SICK patients are risking their lives during Ramadan by missing out on vital treatment, health bosses claimed this week. Members of the East End s Muslim community are cancelling hospital appointments and avoiding taking their medication for four weeks

SICK patients are risking their lives during Ramadan by missing out on vital treatment, health bosses claimed this week.

Members of the East End's Muslim community are cancelling hospital appointments and avoiding taking their medication for four weeks because of the fast.

And this week health chiefs at Barts and the London Trust kicked-off a major campaign to put a stop to the problems before Ramadan in August.

Last year the number of appointments attended by patients fell by 20 per cent during the month of Ramadan at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, the London Chest in Bethnal Green and St Bartholomew's in West Smithfield.

And the cancer department was feeling the brunt of it as Tower Hamlets battled with some of the worst cancer survival rates in the country.

Cancer patients were putting-off starting their chemotherapy treatment because they saw it as breaking their fast.

And some were even taking a double dose of their chemotherapy medication in one-go during sundown when worshippers are allowed to eat.

Barts' leading cancer nurse, Nuala Close said: "Last year patients would not see their doctor during Ramadan even if they needed to be checked or they would make a hospital appointment and then cancel it.

"Women with breast cancer are risking dying by putting off their chemotherapy treatment until Ramadan has ended.

"If patients stop taking their hypertensive medication - for high blood pressure - they will have a heart attack.

"I say to some of my patients, you will probably not see retirement if you do not take your medication for a month. That is surely not what God would want."

A range of events have been organised over the next month to encourage patients to see their GP before they make any changes to their medication or their treatment.

Head of chaplaincy at Newham University Hospital Trust, Yunus Dudhwala, who has been working with the trust on the campaign, said: "It is really important for any Muslim person to fast during Ramadan but depending on their illness there is an exemption when there is not a safe way to fast.

"I would say to a patient, it is better to look after your health and not fast for one day or attend a cancer screening than not be around for Ramadan next year.

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