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New NHS guidance on legal issues regarding religious belief

20 January 2009

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The Department of Health (DH) has issued new guidance to help NHS staff understand the cultural needs of different groups of people.

The guidance, Religion or belief – a practical guide for the NHS, was created in response to research that suggested that patients’ wellbeing could be improved if their carers paid more attention to their religious beliefs.

In the document, the DH acknowledges that there are significant differences between the legal requirements for different groups of people.

The guidance aims to inform and educate staff about the various strands of legislation and how best to implement safeguards to avoid complaints. It also provides examples of best practice and evaluates how equality issues in religion relate to the principles that underpin the health objectives of the NHS.

The document forms part of a wider project to embed equality in the foundations of the NHS, and work towards providing more personalised care for patients. The wider project on equality also includes new guidance on disability, gender, sexual orientation and learning disabilities.

Medical Protection Society

Religion or belief: a practical guide for the NHS