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Christian nurse in row over wearing of cross

21 September 2009

A Christian nurse, who wears a necklace with a small cross, is at the centre of a row with the Royal Devon & Exeter hospital trust.

Shirley Chaplin, aged 54 and only months away from her retirement, is being advised by the Christian Legal Centre. The CLC advised Caroline Petrie, a nurse who was suspended by North Somerset PCT for offering to pray for a patient, then reinstated.

Andrea Williams, founder of the CLC, said Chaplin had worn the cross every day of her life since she was confirmed, including wearing it openly.

Williams said that an “aggressive, secularist, politically correct agenda” was being pursued in the NHS and across the public sector.

“Those wanting to promote the agenda say that it is ‘neutral’ but manifestly it is not. This agenda is leading to case after case of discrimination against Christians and real suffering.”

Williams said Chaplin could lose her pension if she was disciplined. She said the nurse had written to ask if she could wear the cross pinned to her lapel, for health and safety reasons, but was told it could only be pinned inside her lapel.

A spokeswoman for the NHS trust said “no disciplinary action has been taken because we have endeavoured to be sensitive to personal choice”.

She went on: “Whilst it would be inappropriate due to employee confidentiality to discuss a named individual member of staff, our uniform and dress code policy does not allow our staff to wear necklaces, with or without anything attached to them.

“We have a duty of care towards our patients and our staff, and the trust considers the wearing of a necklace to be a risk, albeit small, within a clinical setting because patients, particularly those who may be confused, do sometimes grab for items when being moved.

“This policy was adopted after it was reviewed about 18 months ago with staff and union representatives.”

The spokeswoman said Chaplin was the first member of staff not to co-operate with a request to comply with the policy.

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