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Nurse crucifix row goes to tribunal

A nurse who claims a hospital trust was trying to prevent her expressing religious beliefs by reassigning her when she refused to take off her necklace bearing a cross will take her case to an employment tribunal.

The Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust Hospital said the policy was motivated by health and safety concerns about patients grabbing necklaces. It did not specifically concern Shirley Chaplin's crucifix.

Mrs Chaplin, who worked on the infection and isolation ward caring for the elderly and vulnerable, was redeployed to a nursing administration role "with full pay protection, pending ongoing attempts to find an acceptable compromise", the trust said.

Mrs Chaplin's case for discrimination on religious grounds will begin in her home city of Exeter. The court must decide if her employer "subjected her to discrimination on grounds of her religion" after attempts to resolve the matter failed, the trust said.

Lynn Lane, the trust's Human Resources Director, said: "For the trust, this has always been about compliance with our agreed uniform policy and the safety of staff and patients."

Mrs Chaplin may have been deflected from agreeing a resolution by the involvement of other parties, said the trust.

Department of Health

Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

"Policies are in place to protect the patient/practitioner by making the practitioner accountable. Therefore, I agree that jewellery should not be worn in clinical settings for this very reason. However, it all seems like a big drama about nothing.
Perhaps the trust would serve the public better by addressing the real dangers such as scissors/pens hanging out of uniform breast pockets etc before a patient gets a serious or even fatal injury" - Yvonne, Ayrshire

"I am not a nurse but have been unfortunate to have spent quite some time in one hospital or another. I am not sure if this particular nurse was provocative in the wearing of this emblem, I hope not. What are the authorities going to do if a female wearing a full veil is asked to remove it? I would rather have a nurse with a cross than one in dress not natural
to this country" - JA Mears, East Sussex

"While I agree with the argument for health and safety, it can be that Mrs Chaplin is willing to take the risk of wearing her crufix at all times. If she has worn it for 30 years, has she been attacked? Has anyone suggested to her that she can wear it under her uniform and out when she is off duty? I am a Christian and I feel very strongly about this issue, particularly now when Christianity is under threat. What is it that we can
say we believe in. We have become a nation of no principles that are sustainable, all for political correctness. I do not think that this is to do with H&S issues only. You have traumatised this lady and marginalised her for her belief. Please get a grip and let her wear her crucifix. Tribunals will always side with employers for what ever reason" - Tsitsi Masukume, London

"The uniform policy is usually tied into health and safety policies and one of the reasons it has been reported is that a patient may scratch themselves on the cross worn. The level of hypocrisy is incredible, nurses are now expected to wear usually round their neck an ID badge suspended from an NHS logo string. A name badge denoting rank is also worn plus
the usual array of pens in breast pocket and to finish a pair of scissors on a chain. Probably all worn with the complicity of 'the uniform policy'. Hypocrites ... don't make me laugh" - Marie, Lancs

"The wearing of jewellery when nursing should definitely be banned. Nurses have a responsibility for the safety of their patients, and nurses in a clinical setting should not be adorned with any type of necklace. It is sad to think that a Christian needs a reminder of her faith round her neck. I keep my reminders in my heart. Stop the bickering Mrs Chaplin
and do the job you were trained for" - Linda Fulton, Scotland

"Having worked for the NHS for 30 years I have always worn my Cross to work. In all those years no patient or myself have come to harm. Far better to ensure that the uniforms nurses wear are clean daily, that hair is tied back off the colour, footwear is clean and have not been worn to cross the common before work, and that hand hygiene is correctly carried out by
all and many other factors that put our patients in danger. The cross that I wear has in many instances acted as an ice breaker for patients who are worried and who have asked questions and sometimes prayer. After all in this country more than 60% still consider themselves Christians, even if they are not practicing. I would like to say to all trusts, 'Take a look
around at all the other areas that need attention in an NHS that if all reports can be believed is failing miserably the people who need care. An NHS where there are no flowers but flowing robes and head scarves?" - Elaine Wilson, Wales

"As an experienced nurse I totally agree with the hospital policy. I also since a child am a Christian but unashamed I wore my cross in my pocket and as far as I am concerned it served the same purpose - a reminder of my faith and my love for my fellow human being. Sorry Mrs Chaplain commonsense comes first, health & safety for your protection, cross infection etc. Will you work in a psychiatric unit displaying your jewellery - maybe not! Think about the time and problems incurred when you should be with your patients if you are a real Christian and be honest and address the issue  of hospital policy" - Violet Weera, Birmingham

"I think that wearing a necklace in a care of the elderly ward is a bad idea, with the likelihood of it being grabbed and causing harm to the nurse - regardless of whether it is a crucifix or not. This would apply to wearing a wristwatch which might also cause harm to a patient. Nursing has always been a profession where jewellery is a bad idea simply because of the close contact we make with vulnerable people" - Janet Fry, Dorset

"If the nurse adheres to the uniform code she shouldn't be wearing jewellery of any description. Religion is in the heart and actions not round the neck" - Margaret McAllister, Belfast

"If nurses still wore uniforms instead of the 'overalls' worn today, the crucifix would be out of sight and not be an issue" - Maria Baker, Gloucestershire