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'Is it always clear to patients who different members of staff are?'


Jayne Parker questions why we don’t have a common colour scheme for uniforms throughout the NHS

I’ve read that the Erie Railroad produced the first company organisation chart, and if you Google it you will see it’s a thing of artistic beauty and notably has the company’s directors at the bottom.

The org chart of an NHS trust seems to have all the directors proudly at the top and the wards, departments or staff they manage in ever-decreasing text below them.

In the trust I work for we also have the corporate screen saver appearing on every PC with full-page pictures and titles of the board members; I assume this is so I know who they are if they ever graced the unit with their presence, not that this has happened in the 6 months I’ve worked there… I digress!

A relative of a patient watched the ever-changing faces on the screensaver for a few minutes and commented it would be much nicer to be clear who each of the members of staff she met on a daily basis were. She went on to explain she had recently moved down from “up North” and the colours of the uniforms were all different there, even the nurses who visited her mum at home wore the same colour as the health care assistants in the hospital.

It’s worse still on the unit as we all wear scrubs, meaning everyone from domestic to consultant is dressed alike. I mentioned we wear ID badges but her reply was that the text is far too small for her and her short-sighted mum had no chance.

“everyone from domestic to consultant is dressed alike”

I think she has a good point; it should be clear and obvious to all who the different members of staff are regardless of setting or location.

This could lead to issues with the blurring of perceived responsibilities and the public not knowing who is registered and so responsible to a code of conduct (be that NMC, HCP or GMC) and who is HCA or AP.

My idea is, I think, simple: all NHS care settings (and companies providing services on behalf of the NHS) to have a common colour scheme for the MDT roles.

Students in white, HCAs grey, staff nurses pale blue etc. and include colours for medics, AHP’s, admin and so on.

For all settings, particularly those with no uniform or where all staff wear the same uniform, badges should be worn with the colour borders (or backgrounds?) and large, bold, clear, easy to read text with name and title.

In this way, the patient or client would be able to ask for a nurse and be sure they were talking to a nurse (or doctor, physio) in whichever trust and irrespective of being in an acute hospital or community setting.

The corporate screen saver could be adjusted to introduce the colours and some of the “less noted” members of staff like the domestics, catering or porters without whom the place would simply collapse.


Jayne Parker is a staff nurse working for the NHS and living in the South East with her partner, a cat and a large motorcycle.



Readers' comments (8)

  • NHS Wales has adopted the organisation colour scheme for nurses, qulaified and HCA's, sisters and domestics. You can go into any welsh hospital and be able to identify nursing levels. It is also much cheaper if you change trust as you don't require new uniform unless you change grade/banding. However, we all wear 'scrubs'. The most unprofessional thing you could imagine. It's like going to work in your pyjamas, never a good look.
    But like Jayne Parker says, everything is top down, from the CEO at the top down to whoever the trust deems the lowest, which in my eyes is no-one as we all have an important position when it comes to patient care.

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  • You don't say how long you've Ben nursing, but when I trained we did have a national uniform, still some variation from area to area. Our years as a student were identified by the colour belt, but the hospital in neighbouring area used the same colour as a second year for their staff nurses. But what a simple idea, that would save the nhs a fortune, I still have my poka dot sisters uniform, not that I wear it anymore, which was the same as the DN, but my skills could not be mistaken, as an Rmn, but confused relatives when trying to explain we couldn't continue the dressings once discharged! Different team, different employers!

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  • Always knew who was who when I trained, we should go back to this. It all started with the last Tory Government who wanted to cut cut cut (ring any bells?), flog off "services;" and different hospitals decided to stamp their mark of "forward thinking" and "individuality" by wasting money on changing uniforms. Uniforms now come in various shades and colours of the rainbow and staff are now confused let alone patients!

    It used to be a mark of pride for student nurses to finally wear their first staff nurse uniform, and a mark of achievement as they progressed through the gradings as their career progressed. Everyone knew where they stood, everyone knew who to approach.

    In ED and ITU we always wore scrubs, reflecting the shades of blue. Loved them, they were practical and easy to launder.

    Now its a mish mash of shades and colours, stripes, spots etc, and difficult to distinguish who is who, and unless you have the eyesight of an eagle, unable to read the name badge which will tell you their designation until you are practically on top of the person concerned.

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  • If staff forget to introduce themselves I always find it rather embarrassing when talking to the staring at their chest to try to decipher their name and rank on their badge. it rather detracts from listening to what they are saying. I suppose one should always insist they tell you their name but this can be equally embarrassing if you have been working with them for several years and just happen to have forgotten their name! :?)

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  • Anonymous | 12-May-2014 11:52 am

    ...and scruffy and not very confidence inspiring to boot!

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  • Im training at the moment and even im confused. Im at a hospital who serve to universities. Our uniform is white and red and the other unis is blue pinstripes. Im often mistaken for a physio or OT. Theres nurses at the same level who all have different uniforms. Im often just stood there trying to work out what each person does as a job role. Its hard for staff nowadays to distinguish between individuals let alone the patients and service users.

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  • Absolutely agree. Another standardisation should be patient assessments. Every hospital uses a different assessment when a patient is admitted. Some cover psychological and social aspects of care very well and others make no mention. More standardisation needed across the board.

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  • How can they think of taking our fees up to 120.00 per year when moral is so low ,no staff but more work and no pay rise unless your top management . It's a joke

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