Page last updated at 12:36 GMT, Saturday, 23 May 2009 13:36 UK

Hospital's ban on cross necklace

Woman wearing a Christian cross
The trust said facial and tongue piercings were also banned

A hospital has defended its decision to ban a member of staff from wearing a Christian cross, saying it was about safety not religion.

Helen Slatter was warned by the Gloucestershire Royal Hospital that she would be sent home if she did not adhere to the trust's uniform policy.

The NHS trust said necklaces and chains could spread infection and were also a possible health and safety risk.

It said staff could wear plain ear studs and one ring on the ring finger.

Ms Slatter, 43, has worked at the hospital for five years in the blood collecting department. She is a Christian and worships at the St Peters Catholic Church in the city.

She was called to a disciplinary hearing on Friday where the Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Trust explained the uniform policy to her.

'Spread infections'

A spokesman for the trust said: "The issue is not one of religion; the trust employs a uniform policy which must be adhered to at all times. This policy applies to all staff employed by the trust and who wear a uniform on duty.

"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 the member of staff.

"As an employer, the trust has a responsibility to ensure that all staff are provided with a safe environment to be able to go about their duty.

"Jewellery is restricted to one pair of plain or unobtrusive studs in the earlobes only and no other facial piercings are permitted, including tongue studs. One plain ring or band is permitted on the ring finger."

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