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Muslim woman quits NHS over bare arms policy

A Muslim woman has quit her job after she refused to roll up her sleeves as part of the NHS ‘bare below the elbows’ policy.

The radiographer is quoted in the national press as saying she felt that uncovering her arms compromised her faith by contradicting the Islamic dress code for women.

The Department of Health guidance, issued last year, states that all staff must bare their forearms as part of a hygiene initiative to combat superbugs.

According to the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust, where the woman worked, she originally complied with the ruling for seven weeks and only recently raised the issue.

The trust denied that the radiographer was forced out and defended its policies. Clare Edmonson, director of human resources, said: ‘The policy was explained to her when she began working for the trust and must be observed by all staff for safety reasons.’

Dr Majid Katme, a representative of the Islamic Medical Association, attacked the NHS ruling. ‘There is absolutely no scientific basis for what they are trying to do,’ he said. ‘She was an innocent lady – this ridiculous decision may prevent her from feeding her family.’

Readers' comments (7)

  • I wouldn't be very happy if my relative received a HCAI because a person from a specific faith didn't want to show her arms. In this particular case the trust are correct, this is a policy where there are no get out clauses. As for the comment that the trust had now stopped a women feeding her family, I would suggest it is the women who has made this decision.

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  • It's her fault she can't afford to feed her family, she should have complied. I am sick of people using their religious beliefs for being given preferential treatment. The rule is there for good reason. I say good riddance to her, because she doesn't sound like a totally committed member of staff anyway, and the NHS certainly doesn't need any more of those.

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  • I am in full support of the Trust in this matter Infection control is infection control and no one should be exempt from this. Your forearms must be bare to adequately WASH them!! As for the feeding issue I think this lady should look for an establishment that would employ her with long sleeves. Preferably not the NHS because the rules national.

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  • this lady worked for 7 weeks then raised the issue - why wait so long? she obviously knew the score when she took the job so why take it.... was she hoping the nhs would give her preferencial treatment due to religious grounds when everyone else has to comply, NO and i totally agree with the decision by the trust. Or were the religious leaders wanting to bring this issue into the public eye, and was it them that pushed her into taking a stand? i would like to know if it was truly her or the religious group who made the issue a problem.

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  • I have worked in Saudi Arabia and we wore tops that went down to our elbows. We could wash our hands and wrists with no problem. This lady should adhear to the uniform policy to be sure she does not pass on infection or agree not to work in this country due to this. If I work in a country outside the UK where I trained, I have to agree to their policies.

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  • This is really beyond debate. Anything that helps reduce infections in our hospitals should be the final debate. Of course we should respect people's religions, but common sense has got to play a part.

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  • Bare below the elbow is a new policy with no evidence supporting it prevents spread of Mrsa and clostridium, although adequate hand hygiene does .
    NHS claims of employing people without discriminating its employees and it should take into account that muslim belief has a dress code for women that nothing should be exposed of the women after puberty except her face and hands ., and that is to promote modesty nothing else
    .... nothing strange in that , Mary (Jesus's mother ), mother teresa wore similar clothes and so do practising christian women.
    If u force a person to chose between faith and job , that is DISCRIMINATION...period.
    As from what i know practising muslim women ,rinse their nose with water 15 times per day , for five compulsory prayers .(So I believe they must be the least carriers of MRSA) .and wash their arms 15 times daily from hands down to elbows for the compulsory ablution, so they are the least possible people to be carriers of germs .

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