New velcro suits for hospital patients could spell the beginning of the end of the traditional backless gown, according to its designers.
Health chiefs at Birmingham Children’s Hospital Foundation Trust unveiled the bespoke-designed suits being used on a handful of its wards.
The Dignity Giving Suits for patients are the first of their type to be used in British hospitals.
They have been universally welcomed by the hospital’s doctors, surgeons, nurses and also patients, who have been trialling them.
The wrap-around suits, designed and made by a UK company, have velcro button fastenings along the seams, doing away with the flimsy tie-backs of the backless gowns used in every hospital up and down the country.
Michelle McLoughlin, the hospital’s chief nurse, said she had wanted the hospital’s young patients to feel “protected, safe and secure”, and the old gowns were failing to do that, so hospital chiefs authorised a replacement.
When it became clear there was no off-the-shelf solution, they “started from scratch”, she said. The entire process from idea to manufacture had taken 18 months.
Mrs McLoughlin said the suits were proving so popular children have been asking to take them home while parents have been bemoaning the fact they are currently only available to children.
The hospital’s entire stock of 2,000 gowns will be replaced by May, with plans for adult sizes in the works. They will also come in different colours and patterns, other than the standard dark blue.
Eight-year-old Adam Payne, an in-patient who has spent his life in and out of the Birmingham hospital, said the old gowns had given him nightmares they were so uncomfortable.
“The old ones used to strangle me, and were quite big,” said Adam, from Walsall in the West Midlands.
“The new suits are easy to get on and off, they’re better, and they don’t itch.”
Bev Ward, managing director of Fashion At Work, which makes the suits, said the feedback from children using the suits had been “tremendous”.
She described the old gowns as “hideous, transparent and cold” while their replacements were “warm, durable, and stylish”.
“We wanted to satisfy a diverse clinical need while challenging the utilitarian NHS style to give children something fashionable to wear,” she said.
She hopes the suits, made of 67% polyester and 33% cotton - similar to the material used for nurse’s uniforms - will “revolutionise” attitudes to designing clinical-wear.
Ms Ward believes the suits will also be welcomed by adult patients, and particularly the elderly, who can struggle with the fiddly ties on the backless gowns.
She is in talks with health bosses at Great Ormond Street Hospital and in Nottinghamshire over introducing the new suits for patients there.
Sign our Speak Out Safely petition to support a transparent and open NHS. We are calling on the government to implement recommendations from the Francis report that will increase protection for staff who raise concerns about patient care.