Ethnicity Online

Cultural Awareness in Healthcare

Patient Information: Informing Hospital Staff

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10. What do I need to tell staff if I have to stay in hospital?

All NHS staff that treat patients should be aware of the needs of people from all cultures and religions. If you have concerns about your care while in hospital, staff will be happy to discuss them with you. However, because the staff in hospitals are very busy, it will be helpful if you give them some information, and tell them how you prefer to be treated. You can always refer staff to this website ( so that they can find out more about how to help you.

The following questions will help you to tell staff what is important to you:


  • What is your preferred language?
  • Will you need an interpreter to help you understand what is happening?

Your name

  • What is your full name? You may need to help staff to record this properly.
  • What would you like people to call you?

Prayer and religious activity

  • Will you need help with any cultural or religious activities such as help washing before prayer, washing and brushing your hair or tying your turban?
  • Will you need privacy in order to pray? Would you prefer to pray on the ward, or would you prefer to be taken to a quiet room?
  • Will you have any cultural or religious items with you that need to be handled in a certain way e.g. not putting the Guru Granth Sahib on the floor or not eating food that has been put in front of a Hindu god?
  • Will you need to carry out a special ritual or practice while in hospital e.g. a naming ceremony for a new baby, offerings to be made to ensure health, fasting or religious holiday ceremonies?


  • Do you mind being treated by a member staff who is of the opposite sex?
  • Are there any procedures not allowed by your faith or culture, such as having your hair cut, receiving blood transfusions, or taking medications containing animal products or alcohol?


  • Do you find any particular behaviours that are common in this country offensive and would therefore like staff to be aware of, e.g. touching religious or cultural objects, asking you to remove holy charms or pointing at you with a finger?
  • How would you like staff to show you respect?
  • Is there anything in particular that staff might do that you would consider to be disrespectful?


  • Will you be expecting a lot of visitors?
  • Visitor numbers and visiting hours are sometimes limited. If you think you may be visited outside normal visiting hours, or are expecting a large group, discuss this with staff. In almost all cases, they will be happy to accommodate you, your family and your visitors as long as they know beforehand.
  • Will your visitors bring food into hospital for you? Talk to staff on your ward about this; it may not always be appropriate for your health to eat some foods.


  • Do you have any special dietary needs e.g. vegetarian, halal or kosher? Remember to talk to staff about your dietary needs.


  • Would you prefer it if your medications did not contain some substances, such as alcohol, blood products or animal products? Make sure you tell staff if this is the case.
  • Is there any reason why you might need to take your medicines at a particular time e.g. not taking them until after sunset during Ramadan or not preparing medicines during the Sabbath?
  • Are you happy to accept pain relief, or would you prefer not to?

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