Muslim doctors and nurses are to be allowed for religious reasons to opt out of strict NHS dress codes introduced to prevent the spread of deadly hospital superbugs.
The Department of Health has announced that female Muslim staff will be permitted to cover their arms on hospital wards to preserve their modesty.
This is despite earlier guidance that all staff should be ‘bare below the elbow’ after long sleeves were blamed for spreading bacteria, leading to superbug deaths.
The Department has also relaxed its ‘no jewellery’ rule by making it clear that Sikhs can wear bangles, as long as they can be pushed up the arm during direct patient care.
The move contrasts with the case of nurse Shirley Chaplin, who last week lost her discrimination battle against Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital Trust, which said the cross she has worn since she was 16 was a ‘hazard’ because it could scratch patients.
Mrs Chaplin, 55, had worn the silver cross on a necklace since her confirmation. But the employment tribunal told her that wearing a cross was not a ‘mandatory requirement’ of her faith, even though Muslim doctors are allowed to wear hijabs or headscarves.
Last night she said of the sleeve concession to Muslims: ‘I don’t believe my cross is a danger so this is double standards. What can you say? It seems that life is stacked up against Christians these days.’
Politicians and Christian leaders, including former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, added that it showed the Government was prepared to accommodate minority faiths while Christianity was marginalised.
Lord Carey said of grandmother Mrs Chaplin: ‘The Muslim voice is very strong, so politicians and others are scared of it. We can only deduce that the hostility aimed at her is because she is a Christian.’
The revised rules, which health officials insist will not compromise hospital hygiene, were drawn up after female Muslim staff objected to exposing their arms in public.
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