RAMADAN this year consists of a challenging 18 hour-long fasting day. Yet one non-Muslim has embraced the month with enthusiasm.

Vicky Pickering, practice manager at Hollins Grove Surgery in Darwen, is fasting for the entire month of Ramadan in solidarity with her patients.

Vicky said: “I decided to fast as we have a new Muslim GP and a large number of new patients from the Muslim community and I thought I would do it to see how they feel and out of respect for them.

“Dr Zaki Patel took over this surgery in January after the last GP retired.

“Since Dr Zaki arrived, many of his patients followed him.

“Up until January we only had a handful of patients from the BME community. Now we have about 300.”

She added: “I don’t want to be sat here eating and drinking in front of them.

“I want to know why they fast and how they do it. I want to learn about it all through fasting.”

Vicky said the Muslim community had been very appreciative of her efforts and that the response had been overwhelming.

“The kind and warm comments from people are what is keeping me going.

“It is a long day without food but in particular without water.

“On the first day of Ramadan when I broke my fast, I texted Dr Zaki to say how grateful I was to be able to turn on a tap of water and how important it is to realise that not everyone has access to this.

“Mentally I am in a different place when I am fasting. I am prepared for it and I feel so positive about it.

“My children are so supportive and my son even said he might try it out with me.

“The Muslim patients at the surgery have been so lovely about me fasting that it encourages me to continue.

“I don’t want to let them down.”