«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 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.
Jewellery, other than plain wedding bands and ear studs, watches and false nails, were also banned to cut down the spread of bacteria. But Muslim doctors and medical students said baring arms conflicted with the Koran’s teaching that women must dress modestly in public.
Leicester University said some Muslim females ‘had difficulty in complying with the procedures to roll up sleeves to the elbow for appropriate handwashing’, while Sheffield University reported a case of a Muslim medic who refused to ‘scrub’ as this left her forearms exposed.
The guidance says: ‘Where, for religious reasons, members of staff wish to cover their forearms or wear a bracelet when not engaged in patient care, ensure that sleeves or bracelets can be pushed up the arm and secured in place for hand-washing and direct patient care.
The Department was unable to say last night how much extra it will cost the NHS to provide the disposable sleeves. But 18in polythene over-sleeves are already on offer on the internet for about £7 for a pack of 200.
‘We have considered the implications of this possibility but concluded that the overall purpose of the guidance, to ensure patient safety by adherence to good hand hygiene, is not prejudiced by the additional dress options that have now been identified.’Health officials drew up the revised rules on the advice of Islamic scholars and a group called Muslim Spiritual Care Provision in the NHS (MSCP), which is part of the Muslim Council of Britain.
Derek Butler, chairman of MRSA Action UK, a campaign group headed by respected microbiologist Professor Hugh Pennington, said: ‘We welcomed the introduction of baring-below-the-elbows because we know that anything – whether it’s jewellery, watches or wedding rings – can harbour bacteria which can in turn transfer superbugs between patients.
‘My worry is that by allowing some medics to use disposable sleeves you compromise patient safety because unless you change the sleeves between treating each patient, you spread bacteria. Scrubbing bare arms is far more effective.
‘I’ve seen doctors and nurses fail to change their gloves, and I’ve no doubt this will see exactly the same thing happening. These sleeves are just another risk, and you cannot take risks with patient safety.’
The Department of Health said: ‘The revised workwear guidance gives further clarity to frontline staff about the need to have good hand hygiene when in direct patient care. It does not change previous policy.
Via Jihad Watch.