On Saturday 13 October 2012, leaders of hospices and Muslim communities came together for a landmark event to mark Hospice Care Week.
Local hospices, mosques and Muslim centres from across the UK attended the event at the London Muslim Centre. Together they explored the opportunities and challenges to making hospice care more accessible to people from across the Muslim community.
The event is organised by national charities Help the Hospices and Together for Short Lives in partnership with the London Muslim Centre. Organisers hoped the day will lead to more innovation and collaboration between local hospices and Muslim community groups and Mosques, helping more people to benefit from hospice care.
The Rt Hon Lord Howard of Lympne CH QC, Chairman of Help the Hospices, came together with religious leaders to celebrate the work done to support faiths in hospice care and start a discussion on how this can be improved further. Lord Howard explains:
"Hospices make a vital contribution to supporting people at the end of life and their families, helping 360,000 people each year to live well by providing care that is dignified and personal.
"We are hugely excited to be working with the London Muslim Centre to celebrate the work already being done by many local hospices in partnership with community and faith groups.
"However, there are still too many people who could benefit from hospice care but are not receiving it, because they are unaware of it, or are concerned that their religious beliefs may not be respected.
"As a society, we must collaborate to widen access to hospice care, not only to meet the present need but also to cope with increased demand in years to come, as more of us will live longer with more complex conditions."
Sheikh Abdul Qayum, Chief Imam of the East London Mosque, who is also a patron of Richard House Children's Hospice discussed why hospice care is important from a faith perspective. Sheikh Abdul Qayum says:
"We have been working hard to raise awareness of the work hospices do within our communities. From various events to sermons, it is slowly helping the community understand the vital role and services the hospices provide.
"Issues around death and dying are important to people of the Islamic faith. It is only over the past couple of years, after visiting hospices myself, I have understood what hospice care really means and the extraordinary work that is done by staff and carers to give those with shortened lives, the very best.
"Islam is built upon principles of care and hospitality towards others - this is the exact same as the work hospices do."
Misconceptions surrounding hospice care often can prevent people from accessing care and support which could dramatically improve their quality of life.
Lord Howard adds:
"In many languages, there isn't even a direct translation for the word ‘hospice'. Cultural beliefs and attitudes around death, dying and illness can also vary hugely and affect people's views on hospice care.
"By engaging with directly with different faith groups, understanding their needs and concerns and adapting their services accordingly, hospices can help many more dying people and their families to live well."
The event follows the ‘Widening Access through Nurse Leadership' report from Help the Hospices, out earlier this week to mark Hospice Care Week, which highlighted the different ways hospices are helping to ensure palliative care is available to more people - whoever they are and whatever their illness.