The Disability Rights Commission has been attacked as 'incredibly naive' for urging the removal of mental and physical health standards for nurses.
NHS Confederation chief executive Gill Morgan spoke out after the DRC said the statutory requirement for 'good physical and mental health' should be revoked.
It said these contravene the Disability Discrimination Act and are 'unnecessary and confusing and provide a licence to discriminate'.
More effective monitoring is needed, the body said.
Dr Morgan said that while she welcomed any review of the standards, the DRC's position was 'incredibly naive about the complexity of running an organisation'.
She said: 'While I understand the concern of the DRC, the challenge for managers is to balance discrimination against individuals against the risk to patients.'
But she said organisations need to make access to caring individuals, such as counsellors and occupational health services, easier for staff.
The DRC spoke out as the government prepares to publish a bill arising from the inquiry into the killings by GP Harold Shipman.
The DRC said the standards had the effect of 'stigmatising people with current or past mental health problems'.