June 24, 2008

Short Sleeves and Zips Will Make Infection More Difficult

By Madeleine Brindley Health Editor

PLANS for a new infection-fighting uniform for nurses across Wales will be unveiled this week.

The new compulsory uniform will be designed to reduce the risk of hospital super-bugs, such as MRSA, spreading between patients and staff on clothing.

And it will be "impractical" to wear outdoors, ending public concern that nurses are wearing their uniforms outside work.

But the uniform will also enable patients and visitors to distinguish between different grades of nurses and healthcare staff on wards.

It will clearly distinguish which nurses are in charge.

Health Minister Edwina Hart said: "A new nationally-recognised uniform will be symbolic of the individual and the organisation.

"I want to ensure that anyone entering our hospitals in Wales knows immediately who is a nurse and who is in charge. It will not only convey identity, but also reassurance to patients and relatives and a sense of solidarity and pride among staff themselves.

"The new uniform will also be designed to reduce the risk of hospital infections spreading, helping to meet our One Wales commitment to improve hospital cleanliness."

There is currently no national design, style or colour of uniform for nurses across the NHS in Wales.

This means that the style of uniform for a nurse of any given level can vary between NHS trusts.

A task and finish group set up to consider the issue has suggested that the new uniform is based on scrubs, which are worn by theatre staff and in some A&E departments and intensive care units.

But the proposed "smart scrubs" would be of a higher specification that those currently worn by staff.

The task and finish group, included representatives from the Royal College of Nursing, Royal College of Midwives and Unison, also said that staff must have adequate changing rooms so they can put on their uniform in work, rather than wear it to and from work.

And it has said that NHS laundry services should be responsible for washing nurse uniforms, rather than nurses themselves.

The group's report added: "This dress code is of vital importance in maintaining the professional appearance of the nurse and thus the confidence of the public."

Dave Galligan, head of health at Unison in Wales, said: "The change to an all-Wales type of nurses' uniform will be particularly challenging but absolutely essential as part of a number of measures adopted in improving patient perceptions around infection control."

The recommendation for an all-Wales nurse uniform has been made by the empowering ward sisters task and finish group, which was set up by Health Minister Edwina Hart last year.

The group, which will publish its recommendations on Thursday, is expected to say that ward sisters should be given matron-like powers over visiting hours, cleaning and feeding. And it will call for more infection control measures in Welsh hospitals.

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