What is your team size and where are you based?

The NHS Muslim Network has around 900 members from across the NHS, from a diverse range of skills and disciplines, including clinicians, nurses, trainees and administrative staff. The NHS Muslim Network Executive Team currently includes nine leads covering different areas, as well as regional representatives across the country.

In which Directorate do you sit?

We are a staff network open to all colleagues in the NHS!

Describe the role of your team, and how it has changed since the beginning of the COVID-19 incident? 

 The NHS Muslim Network has the following key aims:

  1. Representation: To represent Muslim staff in the NHS and provide a collective voice for Muslim colleagues, including raising awareness of the Islamic faith.
  2. Networking and progression: Provide a forum for Muslims in the NHS to network and build contacts and local communities, as well as providing opportunities for development to support career progression and work towards increasing the number of Muslim staff in senior positions.​
  3. Inequalities: To support the NHS and other key stakeholders in tackling health inequalities in the Muslim community, through health promotion activities with key stakeholders and co-developing health programmes and policy.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the network has been focusing on supporting Muslim staff in the NHS as well as supporting our communities in dealing with the disproportionate impact on ethnic minority communities. This has included:

  • Developing guidance for the system to support line managers, including Ramadan, workplace-considerations-during-ramadan/ and our prayer guidance
  • Holding regular support check in sessions with our members throughout the year;
  • Developing and delivering communications to the Muslim community and to NHS Muslim staff on the COVID-19 vaccines to increase uptake;
  • Developing and launching a free faith-based counselling service for NHS Muslim staff, in collaboration with NHS England and NHS Improvement, Inspirited Minds and Lateef Project.

Three words to describe your team?

  1.  Inspiring
  2.  Innovative
  3.  Humble

Tell us about a project you (the team) have been working on, or how your work supports the NHS in dealing with COVID-19 for the benefit of our patients, families and colleagues?

Over the past year our team has been working with colleagues in our COVID-19 vaccination teams, health inequalities teams and wider external stakeholders such as the British Islamic Medical Association (BIMA) and the Muslim Doctors Association (MDA) to develop communications to support vaccination uptake in the Muslim communities. The recordings and materials from our work can be found on our website:

Most recently, the NHS Muslim Network re-developed the Ramadan guidance which was published by the NHS People directorate:

Our team have also been working closely with the NHSE/I Health and Wellbeing Team, who have partnered with Inspirited Minds and the Lateef Project to provide a confidential and faith-based counselling service for our NHS people, delivered by qualified counselling therapists. For more information, please visit: inspirited minds  and lateef project

What particular challenges do you face? Tell us what these are and how you work through them. Is there anything you’d like colleagues to do to help?

The Muslim community in the NHS faces several issues:

  1. Lack of representation: Muslims make up a significant group of the NHS workforce, with an estimated 3.3% (46,200) staff members declaring themselves to be Muslim. Despite this, there is severe underrepresentation of Muslims at senior management levels in the NHS; in Jan 2021 NHS England and NHS Improvement alone, there are only 10 staff members that identify as Muslim at a Band 9 and ESM level, which makes up less than 1%. This does not reflect the populations we serve (of which 5.9% of England’s population is Muslim). ​

Our objectives: As a network, we are working on improving the career progression of Muslims working in the NHS. Our Head of Member development, Ranya Alakraa, is currently drafting an action to support and encourage Muslim colleagues to apply and secure senior roles. Alongside this, our Head of Data and Analysis, Hasina Begum, is currently completing a deep-dive into ESR on the demographics of the Muslim community in NHSE/I, in order to understand the key issues and barriers people are facing.

Our call to action: All line managers should have regular career progression conversations with their team members – have an open discussion and try to better understand the barriers they are facing to career progression, and scope out what support a line manager can provide to support team members secure senior/promotional roles. For example, the team member could benefit from developing new skills via training, shadowing senior colleagues or stretch assignments across the team.

  • Misrepresentation of Islam: Islam is one of the most misunderstood religions in the world, due to external political and social factors. Therefore, many Muslims may feel shy about their faith in the workplace and feel they cannot bring their whole selves to work, leading to a lack of confidence and unease. This also translates into ESR data, with many colleagues feeling uncomfortable submitting data on their faith. Muslims also suffer from discrimination such as Islamophobia due to their faith at a far higher rate than any other faith group in the NHS.​

Our objectives: The network hosts regular sessions open for all colleagues to discuss important aspects of Islam, such as fasting and Hajj, and have developed guidance for line managers on how to support colleagues to pray and fast in the workplace. We also recently launched our annual Fast-a-thon challenge to encourage others to participate in a fast for charity and understand what it feels like to partake in the month of Ramadan. We are also looking to establish an Islamophobia working group to develop a long-term strategy, in order to tackle this issue for good.

Our call to action: All line managers should take time to read the Ramadan and Prayer guidance published by the network, and can encourage Muslim colleagues in their team, if they feel comfortable, to have open discussions with their team regarding their religious personal beliefs and cultures, if appropriate. This approach will encourage Muslim staff members to discuss their faith in the workplace and talk about any uncomfortable situations, as well as provide confidence to bring their whole selves to work. For colleagues who would like to speak up or raise a concern ~ please contact your local Freedom to Speak Up Guardians, more information here: Pages – Freedom to Speak Up (sharepoint.com)

How do you champion equality, diversity and inclusion in your team? (What difference have you made?)

The NHS Muslim Network’s key purpose is to champion Equality and Diversity in the workplace and in society, through all of our activities. We know from feedback from our members that the NHS Muslim Network has made a huge positive difference to colleagues who have been working throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. We have run a series of programmes and hosted numerous events over the past year celebrating the diversity of the Muslim community throughout Black History Month, as well as celebrated the wonderful female leaders across the NHS on International Women’s Day.  

How can we get to know your team better?

Our events are open to all colleagues, regardless of background or faith! Come along to our events and share your ideas and reflections. You can also sign up to our mailing list to find out all the great work happening across the NHS, as well as any upcoming programmes.

We know how important saying thank you is, to show others we appreciate their hard work and commitment. What teams would you like to give a shout out to and why?

Our first shoutout is to our NHSE/I senior colleagues Prerana Issar, Helen Bullers and Aisha Chowdhury for always supporting our initiatives and encouraging us to be the voice for our Muslim colleagues working in the NHS.

Our second shoutout is to our colleagues working in the COVID-19 Vaccination programmes, in particular Abdul Hamied, for all his support and ideas for the network throughout this difficult time.

Our final shoutout to the NHS Muslim Network Executive Team – who are all volunteering their free time to support the network as they are passionate and committed to make the NHS a more inclusive place for Muslims.