On 2nd April 2020 following peer reviewed research in the BMJ Open and a grassroots campaign from BIMA, the BMA and NHS Employers, NHS England and NHS Improvement updated the National Uniforms and Workwear policy for the NHS. See the new guidance here.
This means that for the first time in the history of the NHS, national guidance now recommends:
🥁NHS staff from a variety of faith backgrounds may wear their full cloth headcoverings in surgical theatres- this includes hijab, sikh turbans and jewish kippah
🥁They do not need to wear an overlying surgical cap
🥁If trusts refuse to allow this against national guidance then single use disposable head garments may be worn instead
🥁Alternatives to bare below the elbows have been re-emphasised for example 3/4 length sleeves, disposable oversleeves or full length sleeves if not giving direct patient care
🥁Crucially direct patient care has now been redefined to the patient bedspace or any activity that involves patient contact- this means that if you are sat at the nurses station or have just walked onto a general ward you no longer need to be BBE (unless you are in ED, ITU or in surgical theatres)
🥁The document also directly references our research, cites BIMA members as authors and names BIMA as a collaborating organisation
Please bear in mind hospitals retain responsibility for setting their own local dress code policy, this guidance is not mandatory for trusts and BIMA still advises that staff and students be compliant with their local policy or seek local exemptions from infection control teams.
However it brings trusts in line with the legal requirement of public sector equality duty, provides a national standard for best and uniform practice and has been developed in association with national experts in infection control including the Healthcare Infection Society and the Infection Prevention Society.
Trusts that do not follow this guidance continue to have responsibility to conduct equality impact assessments. If staff can demonstrate a negative impact on their training or career, religious harassment or bullying or a negative impact on working relationships due to hospitals not offering these options they leave themselves open to challenge.
A national campaign by NHS England, NHS Employers and the BMA will follow to raise awareness of the change in policy and call upon hospitals to implement the new guidance.
We also call upon our members to approach infection control, equality and diversity teams, chaplaincy/faith networks and local union representatives to inform them of the change.