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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 June, 2005, 13:20 GMT 14:20 UK
Dress code deters muslim medics
By Nick Triggle
BBC News health reporter in Manchester

Sabrina Talukdar
Doctors backed Sabrina Talukdar's plea
Hospitals should allow Muslim women to wear a "theatre hijaab" in surgical environments, doctors have heard.

Sabrina Talukdar, a medical student at the University of St Andrews, said many hospitals asked women to take the traditional head clothing off.

She said this failure to respect culutural values was discouraging women from entering the medical profession.

Doctors at the British Medical Association conference in Manchester overwhelmingly supported her proposal.

I can certainly see it stopping some from entering medicine
Sabrina Talukdar

Ms Talukdar said the motion would help people from other faiths wear religious clothing.

She said there was no standard practice in the UK at the moment, and she had heard of some hospitals insisting staff take hijaabs off, while others allowed them to cover it with surgical head gear.

Outside the hospital theatre, NHS staff are free to wear religious clothing.

Ms Talukdar, 25, said the hijaab would be made from sterile material so it was completely risk-free to the patient.

"We are very aware that MRSA and infection is a concern. We do not want to put patients at risk."

But she said the measure was necessary as some women were being put off medicine because of the issue.

"I think some in the medical profession get put off by this, and I can certainly see it stopping some from entering medicine.

She also suggested screens be put up to shield Muslim women when they wash before an operation.

"It is about making people feel more comfortable. Such straightforward innovations would do wonders for the morale of staff and students."

And she added. "But it is not just about Muslim women, people of all faiths are affected, I think this will apply to them."

The motion passed by doctors said the NHS and medical schools should accommodate religious practices of staff and students as long as patient care was not compromised.


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