Meeting this morning at St John's House, East Street, with Abida Hussain, Equality and Human Rights Officer at Leicestership Partnership NHS Trust.
I'm accompanied by Rosemarie Fitton, who's shadowing me as part of a 30 hour placement required on her MA course in interreligious relations with De Montfort University (through St Philip's Centre for Study and Engagement in a Multi Faith Society). Rosemarie and I meet at Coast Coffee in London Road half an hour before the appointment at St John's House, so I can brief her on relations between Leicester Council of Faiths and the NHS locally. Briefly, we have a Service Level Agreement (SLA) with the local NHS which requires us to do certain pieces of work for them each year. The meeting today is to review progress on that work.
The main thing we're looking at today is the text of a booklet entitled, "Health Care in a Multi-Cultural Multi-Faith Society". This was given to me in the form of a small ring binder with laminated pages, with "Draft - field trial" printed on the fist page. No one seemed to know where this booklet originated or if it's been trialled anywhere except here. It seemed a good practical piece of work for us to do in the context of our SLA. With the help of contacts within the faith communities and some original research, I've been amending the text of this booklet, making it more specific to the needs of Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust (which coves the city of Leicester, the county of Leicestershire and Rutland Unitary Authority).
I emailed Abida the text of a revised version of this booklet in advance of today's meeting (not very far in advance, but all the same ...). I think it's in a reasonable state in terms of the eight member communities on Leicester Council of Faiths, but still I need to finalise copy for other groups included in the original booklet (e.g. Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Rastafarians, Seventh Day Adventists, Spiritualists). The original has three entries for Agnosticism, Atheism and Humanism, which I'll roll into one (under the title of the last of these three). There are another couple of groups that I'd like to include (Pagans, Zoroastrians). The original booklet has sections on groups that don't stand out as being faith communities (Chinese, New Age Travellers). If I can find ways to make them fit, I will.
The draft booklet opens by stating that it contains "Simplified guidelines to help medical and nursing staff in the care of patients from many different parts of the world". I don't think that gets it off to a very good start, making it sound like everyone who presents for treatment in local hospitals comes from another country. It doesn't acknowledge or recognise that settled communities, established for generations are part and parcel of our society. Furthermore, the guidelines seem more about avoiding the negative - trying not to upset patients and their families - than on celebrating the positive aspects of diversity. So my work on this booklet is not only checking facts, ensuring equality and consistency of treatment, but also changing the tone.
Abida's going to circulate the text among her team and ask for their feedback. I'l take whatever they have to say about it and see how that reflects on our own sources - and whether that can help me improve them. I'm hoping we can establish a virtuous circle!
We discuss how to make progress on the Faith Community Health Champions initiative, which we've been mulling over for a number of months now. We both come up with ideas for this that leave us positive and excited.
Other work fitting in with our SLA is discussed. If you'd like to know what they involve, faithful reader, then I have to say, "Watch this space!"
Hang on in there Rosemarie: only 26 hours to go!