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Do you want a national nurses' uniform, or just a clean one?


Recent developments in nurse uniforms have provoked a furious debate among readers. Beyond the Bedpan stokes the fire

There’s nothing quite like a uniform to get you lot excited.

As Beyond the Bedpan goes to press, a Welsh scheme to introduce colour-coded uniforms is the most popular story on

In short, nurses at West Wales General Hospital in Carmarthen will now be instantly recognisable by the colour of their uniform, with navy blue for ward sisters, royal blue for clinical specialists, hospital blue for staff nurses, postman blue for midwives, green for support workers and aqua green for nursery nurses.

The scheme was introduced after a report found that patients often struggled to tell the difference between healthcare assistants and registered nurses - or work out who was in charge of the ward.

It has been welcomed, with one sister at the hospital saying it had “enhanced the sense of pride nurses have in their profession”.

This would appear to be backed up by recent research, which found that “uniforms need to balance a professional and modern image while retaining an appreciation for nursing’s heritage. This will project a realistic image to the public and help nurses to form a positive professional identity.”

So far so good. But readers are not so sure. “Who cares?” asks one, “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?”

We couldn’t agree more. Next time a patient on your ward is in desperate need of help and confused about who to speak too, just scoff and ignore them. The ignorant fools deserve no better.

But seriously, readers comments eventually turn back to more worthy matters, like the need to make it crystal clear to vulnerable elderly patients who is who on the wards.

Another reader suggests it would be more helpful for trusts to take the cleaning of uniforms in-house, saving nurses a lot of hassle and vastly reducing the risk of infection in one fell swoop. The prospect of rushing into work, having had no time between shifts to wash your uniform, and then getting changed in a toilet or cupboard is one that nurses, quite reasonably, want addressed.

Are you in favour of standardised national uniforms, or would you prefer laundry and changing facilities, or both? Let us know in the comments section.


Readers' comments (59)

  • Mark Sheldon

    A clean uniform provided by the employer with a suitable facility to change into it must be the number one requirement surely? However, having a national uniform will at least make it easier for me to recognise the job role of the professional standing in the supermarket queue in front of me. :-)

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  • This is nothing new, nurses ans staff always wore different colours for recognition and the hospital arranged for the laundry but cost put a stop to this so we all wore white with a different belt colour and had to launder our own,which is when nurses started going home in uniform

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  • ms f nightingale had black and white and how many times did she wash it she gave care first?

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  • I have argued for colour coded scrubs for some time, as have many others, so why are we not listened to? I enjoyed your humour Mark and have to admit to being guilty of calling in the shop on the way home from, or the way to, my 12 hour shift but I do make sure I button my coat! Again, insufficient changing facilities. However, I have worked on the community and, as with all people in uniform in the community, I often picked my lunch up from the local shops. Neither did I change out of my uniform inbetween each house call. I currently have a colleague who believes that if she is walking through the hospital door on time then she is not late! Never mind the fact that she spends 10 minutes in the staff room putting her "face" on and then walks on the ward 10-15 minutes late. I dread to think how late she would be if she had to change her clothes as well!

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  • green sounds about right it goes well with vomit and poo!

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  • National uniform colours would be a plus to help the public identify who hospital staff are at a glance.
    Nurses have been highlighting for years, in order to protect the public both in and out of hospital from infection, a hospital laundry service should be available for staff and used. In order for this to work we need enough uniforms and a quick 'turn-around' of uniform cleaning!

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  • Natalie Jewell

    When I was a student I was told we had to wash our uniforms at 60 degrees. In one of my later jobs I checked the label in my uniform T-shirt and it said it could not be washed above 40 degrees. For infection control reasons I have no idea why any hospital would provide their staff with uniforms which cannot be washed at the highest temperature. Who knows when you start your shift what you will have on your uniform by the end of the day. Patients are at the very epicentre of care but, patients aside, I do not for myself wish to wear a T-shirt that is full of germs.

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  • Let's all wear scrubs! The trust launders them, reducing the potential spread of infection. Ah! but what about the cost they might say! Issue addressed by removing the tax coding that is given to us ( if we apply for it, from our local tax office ) for doing our own laundry and putting it towards the NHS laundry budget. Problem solved, no think tank required, at a cost of goodness knows how much. Uniforms cost more than scrubs to purchase, it does not take an economist to do the maths, but apparently it is beyond managements short sighted vision.

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  • I have to say, as a community staff nurse, when I walk into some of our residential homes and get mistaken for their cleaner or carer, I do feel I should be more recognisable to patients.

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    The least the NHS can do is provide nurses with recognisable clean uniform to perform their duties on the very vulnerable to infection wards. With all the bugs travelling around our hospitals we need to do our best to fight against them,If a nurse has to wash her own uniform the chances are that they will not be washed at the correct temperature only found in industrial hospital laundry's,i sometime think the cutbacks in the NHS are a little misplaced.

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