See on Scoop.it – EVF NEWS FEED
At least 17 NHS hospitals have banned front line staff from wearing the veil, The Telegraph has learned, as ministers called for new guidelines to ensure all patients can have “face to face” contact with those who care for them.
The Government last night ordered a review of all health service policies on workers’ uniforms. It will ask professional regulators to draw up clear rules so that communication with patients is always given priority over the right of a nurse or doctor to wear a veil.
It follows indications from David Cameron that he would support public sector bodies wishing to ban staff from covering their faces. MPs have called for a national debate on the issue.
An investigation by The Telegraph has found 17 NHS hospitals across five NHS trusts which have already quietly instituted a ban on front line staff wearing the niqab — a full veil which covers the face — while in contact with patients.
There are 160 NHS trusts in England. With no national guidance, the vast majority make no such ruling, leaving decisions to the discretion of local managers. In some cases, uniform policies specifically state that the veil can be worn by front line staff for religious reasons.
Dr Dan Poulter, the health minister, has ordered a review of all current health care guidance on the issue and asked clinical regulators to draw up clear rules to ban the wearing of the face veil by health care staff while they are in contact with patients.
He told The Telegraph: “I am proud of the rich ethnic diversity of our health care workforce and support appropriate religious and cultural freedoms, but a vital part of good patient care is effective verbal and non-verbal communication.
“Being unable to see a health care professional’s face can be a barrier to good and empathetic communication with patients and their families. That is why I am writing to all health care regulators to ask them to look into this matter and to review their professional regulations, to ensure that there is always appropriate face to face contact between health care professionals and their patients.”
Earlier this week, Jeremy Browne, the Home Office Minister, called for a national debate on the issue, but on Tuesday, Theresa May, the Home Secretary, said it was not the role of the state to tell women what to wear. Their interventions came after a district judge ruled that a Muslim woman must remove her veil while giving evidence, saying that the issue had the potential to drive a “coach and horses” through centuries of justice.
The Telegraph investigation found that the 17 NHS hospitals had clear policies stating that front line staff should not be allowed to cover their faces while in direct contact with patients.
Some went further, to say that face veils should not be worn in situations where communication is essential, such as training.
Many of the hospitals which have introduced explicit restrictions are in parts of the country that have high Muslim populations, such as East London, and Bradford and Dewsbury in Yorkshire.
The policy drawn up by Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation trust, which runs Bradford Royal Infirmary and St Luke’s Hospital, states: “To ensure effective communication, clothing which covers the face (veil/niqab) is not permitted for any staff in contact with patients, carers or visitors or for staff in other roles where clear face to face communication is essential, for example, training.”
Staff who wish to wear a veil when they are not working, such as in breaks, or during their lunch, or walking around the buildings, are told they may do so, but should be prepared to remove their veil if asked to check their identity against their ID badge, according to the guidance drawn up last year.
Similar rules were introduced last year by Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, which operates Pinderfields Hospital, Pontefract Hospital and Dewsbury and District Hospital.
At Barts Health NHS trust, which runs Mile End Hospital, Newham University Hospital, The London Chest Hospital, The Royal London Hospital, St Bartholomew’s Hospital and Whipps Cross University Hospital, the policy is that faces must not be covered while staff are treating patients. Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS trust, which runs three hospitals in Greater Manchester and Lancashire, says face coverings should not be worn when delivering patient care in order to aid communication and minimise infection risks.
The rules drawn up by Northern Lincolnshire and Goole Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Diana, Princess Of Wales Hospital, Goole and District Hospital, and Scunthorpe General Hospital state that during interactions with patients or clients, the face should not be covered.
However, the vast majority of uniform and appearance policies drawn up by the 160 NHS trusts make no reference to the veil, leaving decisions to local managers.
Wirral University Teaching Hospital Foundation trust, which runs Arrowe Park Hospital and Clatterbridge Hospital, specifically states that veils may be worn if required for religious reasons. Dr Sarah Wollaston, the Conservative MP for Totnes in Devon and a former GP, said: “I think the same rules should apply to everyone: if I chose to wear a balaclava to work that would not be acceptable.
“There are many areas — the courts, schools and hospitals — where the veil is simply not appropriate because you need clear communication.
“I’m surprised that there aren’t more female politicians making a stand on this; making it clear that women need to be seen and heard in our society.”
The hospitals that ban covered faces:
Bradford Royal Infirmary
Dewsbury and District Hospital
Diana, Princess Of Wales Hospital
Goole and District Hospital
Wigan, Greater Manchester
The London Chest Hospital
Mile End Hospital,
Newham University Hospital,
The Royal London Hospital
Royal Albert Edward Infirmary Lancs
St Bartholomew’s Hospital
City of London
St Luke’s Hospital
Bradford, West Yorkshire
Scunthorpe General Hospital
Whipps Cross University Hospital
Wigan, Greater Manchester
See on www.telegraph.co.uk