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Bristol trust replaces uniforms with scrubs

North Bristol NHS Trust has announced that scrubs are being introduced for nurses as part of a programme to standardise staff uniforms.

The scrubs will be colour-coded according to band. Those on band 7 and above, including ward sisters, matrons and heads of nursing, will wear navy blue.

Bands 5 and 6 will wear royal blue, while healthcare assistants and assistant practitioners on band 4 and below will wear grey.

According to the trust, nursing staff have been involved in selecting the design and colours of the scrubs, which it said would be “cooler and more comfortable than the current uniforms and allow greater freedom of movement”.

Scrubs were due be delivered to wards this month. Name badges designed to aid the visually-impaired will also form part of the new uniform.

New uniforms for all other staff groups, including therapists, pharmacy staff and junior doctors will be rolled out early in 2014.

Trust director of nursing Sue Jones said: “Smart Scrubs will significantly simplify the vast amount of variation in colours and designs currently worn.

“The evidence base has shown that patients want to easily identify nurses. Blue is the most familiar nursing colour, with the more senior grades in navy.”

She added: “The colour-coding means patients and colleagues will instantly be able to distinguish between registered nurses and healthcare support workers.”

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Readers' comments (25)

  • What is with this insidious Americanisation of healthcare? Why do we feel the need to look like a multi-coloured bag of potatoes in order to care for our patients? Where has the pride in our profession gone?

    A uniform is more than just protective work-wear, it's a way of to portray an image, an ideal which acts as an advert for the profession and the service it represents. We should be able to take pride in our appearance and project that professionalism into the care environment.

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  • As a registered nurse I am proud to wear a uniform which is neat and fits well. How long will these scrubs stay smart, (judging by ones worn in all theatres I have been in they will become too short in the legs, too big round the waist, creased and ill fitting) who will be laundering them and how long will it be before they are a regular sight on the streets of Bristol?

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  • the Americans and Europeans always look good in their scrubs. I guess they are cut differently to the English sacks like most clothes on sale in the UK. Worth thinking about. good cut, good material which drapes well and is comfrotable and practical for the wearer and makes them feel smart and look professional. also important for self-eteem, confidence and patients' cconfidende in them. nobody wishes to look like a washbag and nor do patients and colleagues wish to look at them!

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  • This should be an NHS wide move, and countrywide. It will make it easier for patients, better for infection control, and it looks professional. JMHO.

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  • How are they going to be a positive infection control outcome?

    Surely the issue is how clothes are laundered and how often. Simply replacing one uniform for another makes no difference. Most Trusts no longer have in-house laundry facilities and many no longer have adequate staff washing/showering and changing rooms. Instead these "under-utilised and redundant areas have been converted to offices and storerooms.

    Scrubs were designed for theatres - to protect staff and patients and to enable theatre staff to be clearly identified when they leave these areas (so that appropriate disciplinary action could be taken against staff who broke infection control rules over wearing theatre clothes outside the theatre suites). In my view if they are designed for theatre that's where they should stay!

    Scrubs look sloppy and unprofessional in ward areas

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  • None of this is new: read "Nurses in Wales get colour coded uniforms 8-Apr-2010" within the "Linked articles" list provided - lots of hot air spouted for days.

    Better things to do.....

    (Personally I hate scrubs; look awful)

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  • Finally a bit of common sense with a sensible whole hospital uniform policy. Wonderful and comfy. I hope the Trust will launder them too. This is something the US does do better than us.

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  • I can't see why anyone would want traditional nurses uniforms. Infection control hazards with all the zips, seams, pockets and cuffs. The only hazard with scrubs though is that they are often made to men's sizes so that female staff have to wear a bigger size to accommodate hips. That means the neckline gives a great view of cleavage when you bend forwards to eg make a bed or move someone.

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  • I'm a fan of scrubs. People who moan about portraying a professional image should take a look at the armed forces. They have a smart dress uniform for parades and ceremonial duties, but would never be seen out fighting in them. The combats worn on operations are comfortable and easy to work in in comparison to a scarlet tunic and a bearskin hat. We should learn something from the forces and keep frilly dresses for special occasions.

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  • I wore scrubs for years in A&E. Nice in the summer. Wait until the winter comes and the scruffy t shirts and long sleeved tops start appearing under the scrub tops, and the cardies in various shades get wheeled out. Then there are the pockets, which get weighed down (with all the guff that we nurses need to work through each shift) and pull the scrubs completely out of shape.

    Scrubs are scruffy, but so are most uniforms. But that isn't really the point. A national uniform, whether it be scrubs or uniform, should be rolled out across the country. Patients haven't a clue who anyone is whenever they go into any hospital. At least if the same jobs wore the same colours in every hospital and community setting, then they'd have a fighting chance!

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  • I've worn scrubs for years in Endoscopy. Yes they are comfy and practical but not without issues. Firstly will each Nurse own their own scrubs to take home and wash? or will they all get sent to laundry and you just wear whatever is available? Because I can tell you that is a nightmare with everyone in wrong size scrubs looking awful. I also agree with previous poster about how cold they are in winter so you need long sleeves underneath or on top.

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  • Sounds like with a few sensible decisions being made about the quality and laundering, this could be made to work well and as someone said, make it easier for patients to identify staff.

    My worry is that the drive behind this is not about standardisation but cost reduction and therefore the quality of the material and cut will be cheap. Shame.

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  • are uniforms no longer for the purpose of presenting a corporate image in healthcare like the airlines, some banks and McDonaldds, etc.

    look at some of the European an American websites. nurses always look elegant and professional in their uniforms.

    automatic butlers would sort out the laundry if you don't mind your uniforms being pooled and not personalised. I must say I was not too keen on that idea especially as they sometime came back freshly laundered but still smelling of bo or had a nasty stain on them. We retrieved our uniforms whenever we needed them by swiping our ID cards. There was no charge for this service and the card was also used for clocking in and out and the data went straint to salary and wages, it could also be used in the hospital restauants and a periodic bill sent to the user.

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  • Anonymous | 23-Aug-2013 2:16 pm

    You make a very important point. When I trained, we were issued with 8 uniforms, a cardigan and nurse's cape which were labelled with our own names and laundered by the hospital. They looked hellish, were hellish to wear, but at least we didn't have to drag them home in a plastic bag to wash and iron. We had proper changing rooms and each nurse had a locker.Then Thatcher's lot threw that out of the window. We were issued with fewer uniforms and told to wash them ourselves in our own homes (regardless of the cross infection risk), our changing rooms and lockers were taken away and we soon had to get used to changing in staff loos and cupboards.

    I agree with the idea of a national uniform (like they already have in Scotland). Then it doesn't matter which hospital you end up in, at least you will be able to identify the nurses. But I also think that all staff within hospitals should have access to adequate changing facilities and that the laundering of work clothes within hospital grounds should be looked at very seriously.

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  • Our chief nurse visited a ward recently and following her visit an email went round that started with a couple of lines about how hardworking the staff were then several paragraphs about uniform faux pas. In summary she said she wanted to see smart nurses looking professional. Meanwhile we have no uniform budget and are all wearing uniforms over ten years old.

    I agree we need a national uniform but think it needs a new simple but stylish design so we can take pride in the uniform.

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  • Anonymous | 23-Aug-2013 5:44 pm

    From Anonymous | 23-Aug-2013 2:16 pm

    Interesting comment. It seems every hospital has done their own thing over the years and there are many different systems which always seem to be changing.

    I could also go on about hats and then the cut backs in the late 70s which lead to a reduction in starch which made them stand up and then somebody discovered x-ray film did the trick so we then went and raided the departments for their old film which they were throwing out. At this time too we changed from changing patients' sheets daily to once a week unless they were soiled. This shocked us on the surgical wards or where there were wounds or infections.

    Later, when i moved to a hospital in Switzerland, they had excellent laundering even before the introduction of the automatic valet known as Metalprogetti (not butler as i wrote above !!!).

    With over 5000 staff, and now over 2000 more, they had to find an effective way of pressing the uniforms (latterly polyester/cotton mix) and came up with the idea of a very large and heavy jet wheel purchased from the airport. I never visited the laundry but some of my colleagues had been on one of the guided tours and were very impressed by seeing it in action!

    Changing facilities should always be adequate with sufficient showers and in my view uniforms belong solely in the hospital and nowhere else. We were not allowed to wear ours outside the premises and they had the name of the hospital stamped on the sleeve in case anybody had the idea of nicking them. Once a good stock of hospital material was discovered in a home in Portugal (apparently not an uncommon phenomenon there) including bed linen, etc. this hospital was in the French part, and in Swiss German hospitals patients all have duvets (perhaps more difficult to steal) and sometimes attractive pastel coloured bed linen.

    Everybody wore white - five different styles, dresses or pyjama suits for girls, scrubs for the boys, attractive and roomier maternity wear, and white coats with several deep pockets for the doctors. different groups of staff were distinguished by the colour on our name badge - on the wards, all nurses including the chiefs blue, doctors of all levels red, care assistants and cleaners yellow and then staff not part of the multidisciplinary ward team such as physios, dieticians, OTs, social workers had other colours. It worked very well and patients never complained of any difficulties but if patients did not know the staff or did not seem the so often or seemed confused by who was who we always introduced ourselves.

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  • I seem to remember a national uniform once before. J Cloth blue check. Vile things that were as cheaply made as they sounded.
    Hats a bloody nightmare and a breeding ground for all sorts just like the belt.
    Before anyone starts to say how wonderful they were. Tell me hand on heart that you put a clean hat and belt on everyday.
    The old starched aprons were so you didn't have to change your dress daily.
    Trousers and tunic type tops are a good idea. We do need enough to change daily and keep up with the laundry.
    Different colours for different grades sounds a good idea for the national idea.

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  • Our chief nurse visited a ward recently and following her visit an email went round that started with a couple of lines about how hardworking the staff were then several paragraphs about uniform faux pas. In summary she said she wanted to see smart nurses looking professional. Meanwhile we have no uniform budget and are all wearing uniforms over ten years old.

    I agree we need a national uniform but think it needs a new simple but stylish design so we can take pride in the uniform.

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  • Anonymous | 23-Aug-2013 9:15 pm

    Yep. Those pesky chief nurses are the same everywhere. I think they are produced in the same factory.

    The national uniform here in Scotland was rolled out over a couple of years and, although I was initially opposed to it on the grounds that I thought the money could be better spent elsewhere, I have to admit that it has made a huge difference. NHS nurses, AHPs, admin and ancillary staff are easily identifiable regardless of whether they are hospital or community based. Staff were consulted about design, colours, number of pockets, etc. No uniform is perfect, but ours is a big improvement on the previous variations of tunics and trousers.

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  • As an American and a seasoned nurse I can tell you the scrubs do not look as professional as a uniform. The problem in USA is everyone washes their own uniform. Some iron them, some don't. In my hospital all RNs wear blue. Some nurses don't care if they look professional or not. I miss the days when we wore nice starched uniforms! Our young nurses like wearing scrubs (pajamas I call them) to work. They would never adapt to anything else. I guess what I'm trying to say is if one wants to look professional they will iron their scrubs and wear the correct size.

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