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East and North Hertfordshire Trust

Bare midriffs banned at hospital


A hospital trust has warned staff against wearing clothes that expose their “midriff” or “excessive cleavage”.

East and North Hertfordshire Trust has issued a new uniform policy for all staff, with guidance on shoes, clothing, hair length and colour.

Any member of staff who does not adhere to the policy could be subject to disciplinary action.

The policy states: “The trust expects staff to project a positive and professional image at all times, and whilst the right to freedom of expression is respected, staff wearing their own clothing must dress smartly, professionally and appropriately.

“Staff will not dress in ways that undermine the spirit of this policy, and clothing that exposes the midriff, torso or excessive cleavage. Denim, shorts, leggings and mini skirts are not acceptable attire.”

The document states that hair must be clean and neat and, if dyed, “should be of a natural colour which portrays a subtle, professional image”.

All staff in uniform and working in clinical areas must wear their hair “off the collar and tied away from the face”.

It adds: “Ponytails and plaits should be tied back and also worn off the collar. Hair slides should be of a neutral colour and of a professional appearance.

“Hair ribbons, combs or sharp decorative slides should not be worn.”

Beards and moustaches must be “clean and neatly trimmed” and any offensive tattoos covered up.

Hannah Middleton, Unison branch secretary for the trust, said the policy was agreed by trade unions and staff councils following complaints from patients.

She said: “We needed a policy that covered all staff whether they were in the clinical side or non-uniform staff.

“There had been complaints from patients about members of staff baring their midriff, and problems with health and safety as some had been wearing sandals.

“There has always been a policy but it has now been toughened up.”

The trust has also warned staff it will carry out “audits” of the uniform policy in every ward, department and service area.

A statement from the trust said: “The trust has had a uniform/dress code policy for many years.

“In March 2011, the latest updated policy - which was approved by the trust’s management in conjunction with staff-side colleagues - was rolled out across the trust’s four hospitals.

“As has been the case for some time, the dress code’s aim is to establish a professional and consistent image that reflects the trust’s values.

“For many groups of staff, for example nurses, midwives, radiographers and pharmacists, this is achieved through wearing a uniform.

“For non-uniformed staff, however, it is important they too dress in a way that is both practical and professional in appearance.”

The statement said the policy had existed in some form for years and “has not been adopted because of concerns raised by patients and/or members of the public”.


Readers' comments (16)

  • this just goes totally over the top. do the british authorities want their nurses to look like staid old sexless clones? nurses can still look professional with a little adornment to show their personality, and the colour of their hair is nobody's business except theirs. as for the issue of leggings which was raised in an article on the same subject in DT, it is highly embarassing for nurses still wearing dresses to show their legs up to their thighs when lifting heavy patients.

    to look professional uniforms need to be attractive, with a good fit, a little fashionable, comfortable and functional, fit for the job, hygienic and easily laundered at high temperatures. if it is provided by hospitals and is of the correct size there is no need for it to be indecent.

    as for leggings and sandals nurses need to feel comfortable and dress according to season and temperature on the ward and in some of the draughty ccorridors.

    staff will only give their very best if they feel comfortable in the job and not preoccupied about their temperature and appearance or coercion from their employers.

    here we are talking about a hospital which is run for benefits of human beings, staff as well as patients and not the military services!

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  • i am so glad i worked in europe for the whole of my career where nurses are allowed to breath and be themselves as fully autonomous professionals. they are also permitted to look attractive and professional in their workplace without all the silly constraints imposed by the remainder of the old biddies working in the antiquated british institutions who are usually merely on a failed power trip. the problem is that the gullable brits usually listen and follow like sheep instead of realising that rules are there as guidelines to be adapted to one's own ends and also seem to fail to realise that each and everyone of us is an individual in our own right who must be treated with respect.

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  • I understand the need for a uniform policy but I really do struggle with statements such as "offensive tattoos must be covered". Offensive to whom? I am a semi-heavily tattooed nurse, my tattoos are almost exclusively floral, but to my mother and many people of her generation, ANY tattoo, particularly on a woman, is offensive. To me however a tattoo would need to have racist, sexist or otherwise threatening/bullying implications to be offensive. I would also agree with the other two commenters with regards hair colour and style, provided it is clean and not dipping in people's food/wounds/whatever, does it matter what colour it is? Surely it would be more "professional" to have well dyed hair or any colour that has been well maintained, rather than dirty hair that has been dyed a "natural" colour and left for months to leave 4" roots?
    To be perfectly honest I think that more attention should be paid to ensuring that all nursing staff's attitudes towards patients are appropriate, rather than some of the extremely negative personal and professional experiences I have had as an RNLD. Also, for what it is worth, about 10 years ago I routinely dyed my hair pillar-box red and worked with people who were partially sighted and who had a learning disability. I was the only member of staff many of them recognised without my having to speak first. Surely this is an argument for individuality?!

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  • No cleavages? Dammit!!!! That's my man boobs out then!!

    What Staff Nurse uniforms expose a midriff or cleavage? Are there any jobs going?

    Seriously though, I agree with a sensible uniform policy, but this is taking it a bit too far. As long as infection control or safety isn't being compromised, then who cares if someones hair is bright red or they wear a snazzy pair of glasses on top of their uniform or whatever?

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  • i agree with the above two comments and i fail to see how hair colour affects quality of patient care. in my hospital there is hair of every colour of the rainbow (well almost!) but this is not what makes people better or worse nurses. perhaps the prudes making up these rules could better use their time on sorting out the real issues which affect care such staffing levels, and working conditions for their valued staff, otherwise they do not deserve to have such caring professionals in their employ. but nurses being the dedicated individuals that they are, work more for the benefits of their patients than they do for those of their employers.

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  • highly discriminating, insulting and offensive!

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  • I don't know what nurses in other parts of the UK are wearing but in Scotland uniforms are unisex and are by no stretch of the imagination sexually provocative. I think this whole business is degrogatory and undermines the professional image of nursing that so many aim to maintain. If these nurses are baring more than the should then they should be dealt with by the NMC for bringing the profression into disrepute.

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  • why don't the nhs move into modern times and get in touch with some of the top fashion designers to design work clothing for nurses which are both attractive and fit for purpose.
    take some lessons from wimbledon 2011.

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  • I think a lot of people have missed the point that these rules apply to ALL staff not just nurses. I have seen many scruffy junior Doctors / admin staff /management recently. yes bare midriffs (female junior Docs) stained shirts, messy greasy hair, so much jewelery that the person rattles when they walk. It matters because patients expect a certain image and they are the reason why we are there!

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  • I totally agree with this. We have lost the professional image and attitude many years ago. At the end of the day we are coming to work not on a glammar shoot also we are not going on a night out where you might want to show off your midriff and have low cut tops and sandles on your feet. Totally agree hair should be tied up and not left dangling.

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