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Nurses in Wales get colour coded uniforms

Nurses at West Wales General Hospital in Carmarthen became the first to wear the country’s national colour-coded uniforms for hospital nursing staff.

The introduction of the uniform follows a report suggesting patients found it hard to differentiate healthcare assistants from registered nurses, and how to identify who was in charge of the ward. The “Free to Lead Free to Care” report, published in June 2008 by a task force appointed by the Welsh Assembly, looked in particular at the need to increase the profile of ward sisters and charge nurses.

Launching the uniform today, Welsh health minister Edwina Hart said: “The idea to enhance the role of ward sisters and charge nurses came from frontline nurses in Carmarthen so it is great to return here today to see how the recommendation for a national uniform has become a reality.

“These new-style uniforms are a simple yet effective way to help patients identify who is in charge on a ward as soon as they enter our hospitals. Having a consistent design will also make it more cost effective as it allows uniforms to be bulk-purchased.”

The Welsh Assembly also said hospitals were working on providing staff laundries and changing rooms to help control the spread of infections.

Wales is the first UK country to introduce standard NHS nursing uniforms. All 36,000 nurses and midwives are due to be provided with their uniforms by the end of a year at a cost of £1.4m.

Chief Nursing Officer for Wales Rosemary Kennedy said: “The national uniforms will help to remove any confusion over who is in charge, making it easier for people to direct a query and to have confidence in the reply they receive.”

Ward sister Marie Williams, who spoke to Ms Hart about the need to empower ward sisters in Wales during a previous visit to West Wales General Hospital, added: “I’m stunned that an initial conversation between myself and the minister has led to the launch of the new all-Wales uniform. I am sure the new uniform, along with the other changes to empower ward sisters, will enhance the sense of pride nurses have in their profession.”

The uniforms are described as:

  • Navy blue for hospital ward sisters/charge nurses and their deputies;
  • Royal blue for clinical nurse specialists;
  • Hospital blue for staff nurses;
  • Postman blue for staff midwives;
  • Green for healthcare support workers;
  • Aqua green for nursery nurses.

Readers' comments (46)

  • thats an awful lot of blue uniforms, has anyone thought of the visually impaired patients, they will just see everyone as wearing "BLUE" with no differentiation between them, (sorry ohpthalmic nursing for 20 years makes you have tunnel vision). And will there be a poster displaying clearly indicating who & why these people are wearing different colours or will it just be another higherachial thing that is something the staff know who wears what colour but the patients are assumed to know.

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  • We have had colour coded uniforms for the last 15 years+

    We have
    Purple - Matron
    Navy for Sister
    Navy - red piping for N Sp
    Pale blue - Staff Nurse
    Dark Green HCAs
    Aqua Nursing AUX

    Visually impaired patients dont seem to have any problems telling the difference

    Didnt know we should have got it published as a good idea!!

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  • different shades of blue were historicly used for staff nurse, and green for the enrolled nurse. but today the HCA is the EN but without the same level of training.

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  • I worked hard to become a staff nurse, and to me that's royal blue! A standard national unifor does sound like a good idea, so long as i don't have to change My colours...

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  • At my trust, we have recently been allowed to wear scrubs (our choice so at our expense). The colours set were specific:
    black tunics and trousers for band 8
    navy trousers and tunics for band 6 and 7, royal blue tunic and trousers for band 5, pale green tunic and navy trousers for band 4,
    white tunic and navy blue trousers for band 2 and 3
    Pharmacists in dark green,
    infection control staff wear purple.
    A lot of staff have purchased their own- for comfort, our issued uniforms are unbelievably restrictive. I don't think many would be happy to change, unless similar options/ choices were available

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  • About damn time a nationalised standard was sorted out, but why only in Wales and Scotland? Why not England too?

    This has been a long time coming and will be a great improvement once it is sorted out here too.

    Oh, and Anonymous | 8-Apr-2010 2:11 pm and others, yes you may have already had coloured tunics/uniforms at your trust, but guess what, every other trust has a completely different one! That is the problem!

    Over working and training in 4 trusts I have seen HCA's and Auxilliary Nurses in Green, Green stripe, Pink, Pink Stripe and Purple. I have seen Staff Nurses in Light Blue, Light Blue Striped, Royal blue and Royal Blue stripe. I have seen Sisters/Charge Nurses and Matrons in Navy, White with Navy piping, Navy with red piping, Navy with white piping, solid red, solid black and black with white stripes.

    Don't even get me started on the plethora of specialist Nurses etc.

    You see the problem here?

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  • Who cares?
    This is not important.
    Why are nurses prepared to waste their time on this guff?

    It's hardly a national uniform at all. Blue, blue, blue.

    besides anyway, why do people need to know at first glance who we are? if it's not obvious already then my god. Aren't these people the most ignorant of all?

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  • what ever happended to the multidisicplinary team where we all work together for the betterment of the patient. Having differant coloured uniforms just reinforces the class system and lets the pencil pushers feel important. Lets spend that 1.4 million pounds on paitent car. Also the trust needs to issue 11 sets of uniforms each because in order to reduce infection the uniform must be cleazned by the trust and decent lockerrooms must be provided so that the staff dont wear these fancy uniforms home and spread MRSA

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  • To jjjez@hotmail.com and John Warwick,

    Just imagine this little scenario, an elderly patient is in hospital. He is not used to hospital having very rarely been in and is embarrassed at being there and doesn't want to ask for help, but he is in a lot of pain and really really needs help. There are a multitude of people rushing in and out of the bay and he is unsure of who is who because of the wide range of uniforms and the fact he has never seen any of these colours before as it is not his local trust.

    Someone walks by in a blueish uniform and he quietly asks, 'Nurse, I need help'. The woman says sorry that is not my job and empties the bins and wipes the tables down before leaving.

    Someone else walks by in a black uniform and the patient again says 'Nurse, I need help'. The man in black says 'okay, the Nurse will be in to see you soon,' before going to see the one patient he is here to see in his specialist role.

    The patient sees a number of other staff walk by but is unsure of who to ask for help.

    A doctor walks into the room followed by his gaggle of cult followers and does a quick lap of the bay before hastily beating an exit as his lackies hastily write everything down. The patient doesn't bother asking them for help.

    Two women walk in in green stripe uniforms and the patient once again asks 'Nurse, I need help'. They reply, 'okay, I'll go and get the Nurse'. The patient says 'I thought you were the Nurse' and is really in pain at this point.

    He presses the buzzer after a while and a student nurse walks in in a white and red uniform. 'The patient asks are you a Nurse? I'm in pain.' The student says 'No, but I will go and get the Nurse so we can get you some pain relief.'

    Eventually the Nurse comes to see the patient and the patient realises they have been in and out all the time, but he didn't know to ask them because he thought their uniform denoted something else!

    Doh!

    Ok, I admit I am being a little over the top but it is not uncommon from a patients perspective.

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  • The more things change, the more they stay the same!
    I started training in 1980 - we had 10 uniforms that were not allowed to be worn outside of the hospital without a cape - and then only if escorting patients.
    We had showers and lockers, all uniform cleaning was done by the hospital laundry.
    Nursing Officers wore plum suits. Sisters and Charge Nurses Navy, staff nurses sky blue, SENs green - students all wore white with stripes denoting their year - 1 blue for 1st year student nurse...2 green for second year pupil nurses etc. District nurses wore navy blue with matching coats.
    I have seen staff supermarket shopping, on public transport etc in their uniforms - it's a disgrace and must be stopped.

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  • Whatever colour my hope is that they are not worn at bus stops in the supermarket, picking children up from school.
    That they are CLEAN everyday, no pen marks on the pockets and worn only within the working area.
    I am (sadly) old enough to have had laundered on site uniforms, fighting in the changing rooms to find a named one that had come back not lost. Even with the trials and tribulations of all that and lockers etc etc Our uniforms were at least only worn on site and had to be clean everyday.
    Watching overtired Health practitoners dragging themselves home at the end of a shift looking crumpled, pale, grubby and exhausted - wearing the same uniform they may have worn the day before or will drag out again for the early tomorrow ... does colour matter ... really??? Surely we still need to think where when and how we wear these robes of delight too.
    I dunno something is skewed imho when many areas are now utilising scrubs (brrrr freezing) as standard - are these coloured?? I honestly don't know.
    As someone who has been rather 'rotund and large breasted' whatever the colour the fit is more important to me! I may be a senior nurse in Navy but believe me if it stretches across my nether regions I may as well have few qualifications as the overall appearance is not a happy one! We should canvass for fit first imho!!!


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  • For many years I was a HCA and wore the hospital blue tunic, I then bit the bullet and proudly passed my nursing Bsc honors. Wales Staff Nurses are wearing the same colour I wore for all those years as a hca, I have always known SN's in Royal blue, are we just going down the pecking order of colours now. Although I have no problem with the colours of uniforms I think again money is being wasted on new uniforms, what could we have spent that money on instead of new uniforms when people already had perfectly good uniforms AND when managers change will it all change again?

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  • Instead of wastoing money why noy devise posters for individual trust which clearly donat
    Donates our place in the hierachy! And as for the example given
    We work in a multi disciplinary team and came into
    The job to help others so whoever is asked for pain relief
    Or whatever else should say 'I'm not the nurse looking after yafter
    You but I will go and get them for' otherwise its just plain
    Ignorant otherwise and they should reconsider their
    Career if they ignore a patient in need, whatever therer role
    Pay band or uniform colour is!!!

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  • It would have been nice to be asked our opinion in Wales. This new uniform decision is not popular with nurses especially the lighter trousers. I feel this new uniform will cause more confusion for older patients who are used to the classic shape and blue of the staff nurse tunic and dress. Also there are no washing or changing facilities in the two major hospitals in Swansea so staff will have to launder their own uniforms and look like scruffs travelling back and forth to work.

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  • All this chatter about uniform colours - there are much more important issues to debate

    Oh and Mike 8th April 3.51

    perhaps as you missed my point completely I should have made it simpler for you and just simply put .... so what !

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  • Anonymous | 9-Apr-2010 8:14 am, I didn't miss your point at all, I got it loud and clear. I answered to show you how short sighted your view is.

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  • And to Sharon Bates and Anonymous | 8-Apr-2010 8:08 pm,

    First of all as for the infection control issues surrounding wearing our uniforms outside of work (ie travelling home on public transport) current evidence shows that it just doesn't matter.

    Therefore I think if we are to be forced to NOT wear our uniforms outside of work, then we should be allowed to force all Doctors/specialist Nurses/speech therapists/nutritionists etc who all come into work in their OWN clothes to wear a hospital uniform, and ban all patient visitors who after all come in their own clothes then quite happily get on public transport/go shopping etc afterwards (and a lot of visitors I have seen have way more questionable hygiene standards than the staff!) or why stop there? Why not stop patients themselves from having their own clothes brought in?

    Finally the trusts themselves are supposed to provide us with proper changing rooms for each ward, they never do. I refuse on point of principle to get changed in a cupboard or a toilet, and after a long and tiring shift, often after being forced to stay longer as it is due to some patient emergency or the workload or whatever, I am not taking even more time out of my precious free time to get changed, unless I start getting paid, or time is given specifically for me to do so during my shift.

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  • Whatever colour uniform we wear, and surely it is not hard to explain to a newly admitted patient to explain who the ward staff are so they feel at home, I think uniforms should be laundered by the hospital, and staff should be provided with proper changing rooms and showers. I am fed up with nursing staff being blamed by the media and everyone else for spreading infection whilst being expected to launder my own uniform in my own house, and being expected to change into it in a toilet.

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  • I agree. My hospital has provided shower and changing rooms.

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  • I personally think all NHS hospitals should have the same uniform, what is the point for differences when we have the same employer? We need easy clean, comfortable and plentiful garments to do our job in. Also, simple suggestion: How about putting a laminated (wipeable) small poster on side of each patient locker which shows the uniform colours of all staff so that patients can see from their bed who-is-who. It could be part of the admission process "these are the members of staff who can help you if you feel unwell or need assistance", it would take a few seconds extra and would help clarify the 'team' from the outset.

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