Female Muslim doctors allowed to wear disposable sleeves for modesty: official guidance

Posted on March 30, 2010


By Rebecca Smith, Medical Editor, Telegraph.co.uk

All staff involved in caring for patients should be ‘bare below the elbows’ to ensure sleeves do not become contaminated and hands can be washed thoroughly to prevent infections passed around the ward.

However female Muslim staff had been concerned about the rule as exposure of their forearms is seen as immodest.

Staff in several hospitals had reportedly refused to expose their arms for hand washing and ‘scrubbing in’ procedures before surgery.

New guidance from the Department of Health said staff can wear disposable sleeves which are elasticated at the wrist and elbow when in contact with patients.

The guidance also states that using alcohol gel to cleanse hands between treating patients does not contravene strict Muslim rules on alcohol.

The guidance was drawn up following meetings between the Muslim Spiritual Care Provision in the NHS group and Islamic scholars, chaplains, multi-faith representatives and infection control experts.

It said: “Use of hand disinfection gels containing synthetic alcohol does not fall within the Muslim prohibition against natural alcohol (from fermented fruit or grain).”

The guidance added Muslim staff could wear uniforms with full length sleeves when not directly engaged in patient care and that they might not be loose or dangling. The sleeves should be able to be pulled back and secured for hand washing and direct patient care. [more]