HOSPITAL staff in the Lothians have been told not to eat at their desks to avoid offending Muslim colleagues during Ramadan.
NHS Lothian has advised doctors and other health workers not to have working lunches during the 30-day fast, which begins next month.
The health service’s Equality and Diversity Officer sent an e-mail to all senior managers, giving guidance on religious tolerance.
This includes ensuring Muslim staff are given breaks to pray, and time off to celebrate Eid at the end of Ramadan.
It is understood they also advised hospital managers to move food trolleys away from areas where Muslims work.
An NHS spokesman said he could not confirm what was in the e-mail.
Jim McCaffery, director of acute services and workforce at NHS Lothian, said: “This e-mail was circulated to a number of senior managers as we continue to promote cultural awareness in our organisation.”
But the move has angered many doctors and politicians, who say it is taking religious tolerance too far.
Bill Aitken, Scottish Conservative justice spokesman, was reported as saying: “Frankly, this advice, well meaning as it may be, is total nonsense.
“This is the sort of thing that can stir up resentments rather than result in good relations.”
Frankly, if I were to receive this type of email at work, even if I never ate at the office, my first instinct would be to pack a huge lunch on a daily basis, filled with objects that smell and look wonderful.
There is nothing wrong with a given individual deciding that he would prefer not to eat in front of those who have voluntarily chosen not to eat. I don’t agree with that decision, but it’s a personal one and therefore okay by me. I can’t even begin to detail what’s wrong with a large government corporation officially banning one set of employees from eating so that a religious minority engaged in a voluntary act won’t be offended. I say this especially because I suspect that the ban on public eating has nothing to do with respect and everything to do with fear and self-loathing.