UK & World News
Full-Face Veils In Hospital Put Under Review
A review into whether NHS staff in England should be allowed to wear full face veils has been ordered by the Government.
Ministers have written to the General Medical Council to ask the regulator to decide whether there is a problem with face-to-face contact.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt says he has a "great deal of sympathy" with patients who do not want to be treated by a doctor or nurse with their whole face covered.
He said he would want to see the person looking after him, but stressed the matter was for professionals rather than politicians to address.
Mr Hunt told Sky News: "This is something that is decided locally by NHS trusts and I strongly support the principle that hospitals should have that local autonomy.
"But I do want to make sure we have the right professional guidelines in place so that patients can be confident that they are able to see a doctor or nurse's face whenever they should.
"I think it should be a professional matter not a political one so we have written to the professional regulator the GMC to ask for their guidelines.
"As a patient I would always want to see the face of the nurse or doctor looking after me.
"I would really like the GMC to issue professional guidelines so that hospitals locally can make sure their doctors and nurses are following those guidelines."
Health Minister Dan Poulter, a doctor, has ordered the review of current advice and asked regulators to devise new uniform rules.
"A vital part of good patient care is effective verbal and non-verbal communication," he told The Daily Telegraph.
"Being unable to see a healthcare professional's face can be a barrier to good and empathetic communication with patients and their families.
"That is why I am writing to all healthcare regulators to ask them to look into this matter and to review their professional regulations, to ensure that there is always appropriate face-to-face contact between healthcare professionals and their patients."
A ban on staff wearing the full-face veil when dealing with patients has already been introduced at 17 NHS hospitals, according to the newspaper.
Home Secretary Theresa May insisted it is for women to "make a choice" about what clothes they wear, including veils, but said there will be some circumstances when it will be necessary to ask for them to be removed.
Earlier this week a judge ruled that a Muslim woman will be allowed to stand trial while wearing a full-face veil but must remove it while giving evidence.
The ruling followed calls by Home Office Minister Jeremy Browne for a national debate on whether the state should step in to prevent young women having the veil imposed upon them.