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Catholic phlebotomist resigns over crucifix row


A phlebotomist at an NHS hospital has resigned after refusing to take off her crucifix, which the hospital had banned on infection control grounds.

Helen Slatter, from Gloucestershire Royal Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, had refused to sign up to the uniform code because of her Catholic faith.

She told reporters: ‘They made it clear that, if I went back, the hospital would send me home if I was wearing my crucifix.

‘I am not willing to stop wearing it, so I have been left with no choice but to leave my job.’

A trust spokesperson said all jewellery was banned because of the hospital’s new infection control policy.

A statement said: ‘We can confirm that Helen Slatter has handed in her notice to leave the Trust’s employment.

‘We were disappointed that Helen took this decision and had offered to meet her again to discuss her concerns. The Trust does have a uniform policy which prohibits the wearing of necklaces and chains for the safety of both patients and staff. Similar policies are in place in hospitals across the country and are vital in the fight against infections.

‘We would like to make it clear that Helen had not been the subject of disciplinary action. As a Trust we are supportive of our employees’ religious beliefs.’


Readers' comments (4)

  • Quoting from NT article "Do dress codes lead to discrimination?" (18 August, 2008), I am sure that Yunus Dudhwala, minority faiths adviser to the College of Healthcare Chaplains and multifaith manager at Newham University Hospital Trust could offer support for this phlebotomist as it states in the article mentioned, which concerns a similar issue, "Mr Dudhwala said he thought there was a strong case for the policy to be challenged on the ground of issue of religious discrimination and human rights. ‘I think trusts should be looking at other options rather than implementing a blanket policy and taking a dictatorial stand on this – it is forcing staff to choose between a profession they love and a religion they love,’ he said."
    There are many religions that will feel the impact of a blanket decision like this but Christians will be most effected by it as it is the predominant religion in this country. It will be appreciated having people like Mr Dudhwala offering his support.

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  • Thanks for your comment. You can read "Do dress codes lead to discrimination?" here:<br/><br/>kind regards, Victoria<br/><br/>Nursing Times

  • Well I am a Student Nurse and a Catholic. If it meant that I couldn't train to becomme a nurse just because I wasn't able to wear a crucifix I certainly would take it off.

    It's only a symbol of the catholic religion it is not a neccessity. I don't need to prove that I am a devout Christian to all and sundry. I most certainly don't need to wear one to remind me of my religious belive's either.

    I just don't understand why she diddn't take it off.

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  • If it was a crucifix on a chain around her neck, why couldn't she just tuck it under her uniform out of the way? It doesn't need to be on display does it? I'd have thought that a person wears a crucifix for their own (personal) religious reasons rather than as a means of telling everyone around them what their religious beliefs are, and having it tucked away under the uniform would be fine wouldn't it?

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  • I was trained in the 70s and have never had to be reminded of our dress code as have always thought it not only enhanced our professional appearance but necessary for infection control purposes. However in our hospital the policy is discriminatory, Christians are admonished if wearing a crucifix as this lady was but when a nurse in a clinical area refused to remove a necklace denoting her Muslim faith no action was taken and she continues to wear it with no interference from management. We have medical staff who can also wear the same type of necklace without any problem. No one dares to question this policy as management want to avoid a legal confrontation! These double standards we have learnt are not confined to our hospital.

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