A devout UK nurse is in trouble after she refused to remove her crucifix while on duty as required by the NHS. She may have to choose between her faith and her job now.
Last year there was a furore when the authorities insisted no more long-sleeved coats as part of the war against the superbug. Muslim lady doctors objected it would be immodest for them to fall in line. But the NHS would not give in. And now it insists that crucifixes spread disease or even be used as a weapon.
AdvertisementGloucestershire Royal Hospital explained that health and safety rules applied to everyone and the regulations had nothing to do with religion.
Helen Slatter, 43, serving as a blood collector at the hospital, said she was called to a disciplinary meeting and warned she would be sent home if she failed to comply.
Despite working at the hospital for five years, she is also considering leaving her role to escape the 'awful situation.'
She said the hospital was threatening to send her home from work for reasons of 'health and safety and infection control.'
She told the Gloucestershire Echo: 'I just feel it is so wrong - I have always worn my cross inside my uniform and it means alot to me. They have told me I can carry it in my pocket but it isn't the same.
'My faith is important to me but I'm not a bible basher and don't push it onto colleagues. Now I have to choose between my job and my faith. It is an awful situation.'
A spokesman for Gloucestershire NHS Trust said today: 'The issue is not one of religion. The trust employs a uniform policy which must be adhered to at all times.
'Necklaces and chains present two problems - firstly they provide a surface that can harbour and spread infections and secondly they present a health and safety issue whereby a patient could grab a necklace or chain and cause harm to a member of staff.'
The case echoes that of Nadia Eweida, who clashed with British Airways after refusing to take off a crucifix. BA later changed its policy to allow staff to wear a 'religious symbol'.
Last year bank nurse Caroline Petrie, from Weston-super-Mare, Somerset faced disciplinary action after a patient complained that she had offered to pray for her.
The primary care trust later agreed that she could continue to pray for patients as long as she asked first them if they had any spiritual needs.