According to a report by British newspaper Daily Telegraph, 17 hospitals in Britain had effectively banned their female employees from wearing the niqab, which covers their face.

The report revealed that in the absence of national regulations, the 17 NHS hospitals had put guidelines in place that prohibit employees from using the Islamic headdress when dealing with patients.

This is while the ban on the niqab is not enforced in NHS hospitals, and most institutions allow the veil to be worn on religious grounds.

However, there is no legislation in place, so it is at the hospital’s discretion whether or not to ban the garment.

The report found the guidelines were prevalent in those areas of Britain where there are a large Muslim population. The Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation trust which administers two hospitals in the North of England has guidelines that forbid the use of the niqab “where clear face to face communication is essential” to ensure “effective communication. ”

In an interview with the Telegraph, UK Health Minister Dan Poulter said he had called for clinical regulators to draft clear rules that would ban the use of the garment when the staff deals face - to - face with patients.

The current discussion over a possible ban on wearing the traditional Muslim dress in public has provoked the ire of the British Muslim community.

According to official statistics, Muslims make up around 4.8 per cent of the population and only a small proportion of them wear the traditional niqab.

At the beginning of this week, Home Officer Minister Jeremy Browne called for a debate on restricting the use of the niqab in public. He stated that although a ban made him feel “uneasy”, restrictions should be looked at to ensure “freedom of choice” for girls living in Muslim communities.

In retaliation to the politician’s comments, the chief executive for the Ramadhan Foundation, Mohammed Shafiq, said Browne’s suggestion was indicative of British government’s double standard policy on the Muslim minority.

" Whatever one ' s religion they should be free to practice it according to their own choices and any attempt by the government to ban Muslim women will be strongly resisted by the Muslim community, " said Shafiq.

The issue of banning the niqab hit the headlines again in Britain after a controversial ruling in a district court forced a Muslim woman to take off her veil while she was presenting evidence in court. Furthermore, an attempt to ban the Muslim headdress in a Birmingham college was overturned at the beginning of September.