Doctors have been told not to wear ties on hospital wards because they could spread the MRSA superbug to patients.

Hospital consultants, working at Brighton and Sussex Hospitals Trust, have been told that they should leave their ties at home because they are not cleaned as frequently as other clothes and could spread germs. The MRSA bug, which is spread by lack of cleanliness, is responsible for hundreds of deaths. The rules have been introduced to try to reduce one of the highest rates of MRSA infection in the country.

Doctors and nurses working in Sussex have been encouraged to challenge colleagues who defy the no-tie dress code. But, according to The Sunday Times, doctors have reacted angrily claiming that the rules could threaten their authority and are driven by political correctness.

Dr Michael Dixon, chairman of the NHS Alliance, said research suggests that patients have more confidence in smartly dressed doctors.

"I certainly would feel less professional if I was not wearing a tie," he said. "It is all right if you are an antipodean doctor but not in this country."