The government has announced a review into whether NHS staff in England should be allowed to wear full face veils.
The General Medical Council (GMC) has been asked by the Department of Health to ensure there is “appropriate” face-to-face contact with clinicians and patients.
However, the actual number of women wearing the niqab in the NHS is thought to be “extremely low”.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt told the BBC: “I think it is very important that patients do get proper contact with the doctors and nurses who are looking after them.
“Certainly if I was a patient myself, I’d want to be able to see the face of the doctor or nurse who was treating me.”
Some hospitals have introduced rules banning the full face veil.
In 2009, Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust brought in the rules to give “clear rules” to staff. However, the Trust said that wearing of the veil had not been an issue, either before or after the ban.
Professor Carol Baxter, from NHS Employers, said: “Our staff come from all backgrounds as do our patients, however, to ensure the highest level of care is delivered, it is paramount that there are no barriers to effective communication between staff and patients.
“NHS organisations have a duty to determine appropriate dress for staff, depending on their role and the tasks they perform. This must be done in close collaboration with patients, staff, faith groups and community representatives.”
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