The Christian nurse who lost her discrimination case against the NHS after refusing to remove her crucifix has accused the health service of "double standards" after it emerged Muslims doctors and nurses will be allowed to wear long sleeves for religious reasons.
The Department of Health will allow female Muslim staff to ignore a strict dress code which stipulates long sleeves must be banned to prevent the spread of diseases such as MRSA, the Daily Mail has reported.
Some female Muslims objected to being told to bare their arms on wards - but have now been reassured that they need not do so as long as they can roll the sleeves up to wash their hands and arms when with patients. Staff will also be allowed to wear disposable 'over sleeves' if they wish to remain covered up when on wards.
Shirley Chaplin, 54, last week lost her employment tribunal case against Royal Devon and Exter Hospital Trust, after a judge held that is was right to prevent her from wearing her cross necklace for health and safety reasons, in case a patient grabbed the chain.
She said last night that the decision reflected "double standards." She added: "What can you say? It seems that life is stacked up against Christians these days."
Derek Butler, chairman of the MRSA Action UK, said: "Anything such as jewellery, long sleeves and ties can harbour bacteria and transfer superbugs to patients. This is why they should be banned for all staff regardless of their religion."
A Department of Health spokesman said: "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."