CSP head of practice improvement Helen Sharma highlights the collective power of members, and how you influenced planned uniform changes in England
Uniform is an emotive subject. It’s part of professional identity and affects how you feel in your day-to-day working life.
Many physios remember how exciting it was to put on navy and white for the first time and be recognised as a physiotherapist. Recently, I was struck by the strength of feeling about uniform from CSP members and learnt just how powerful it can be to speak with a collective voice.
Over the last two years, NHS England (NHSE) and NHS Supply Chain have been trying to move towards a single colour uniform for all allied health professionals (AHPs) in England. I was representing the CSP at these meetings and it quickly became apparent that despite the importance of the topic to members, it was too easy for decision-makers to ignore them.
We needed to strengthen the member voice with data. Via two surveys in 2021/22 we heard from almost 6,000 members, which is a phenomenal response rate. And in terms of a steer, it couldn’t have been clearer – 75 per cent of respondents voted against the single colour AHP uniform.
In conjunction with similar numbers from other AHP membership organisations, I used this data to change the course of the discussions.
Through the surveys, I was also able to draw key themes to shape the discussions, such as professional image and identity, patient safety and other practical considerations. Of course, I had spoken about these factors before but, due to the sheer number of members behind me, my voice held considerably more weight.
As featured in this issue of Frontline, the outcome is that NHSE and NHS Supply Chain have removed the option of a single colour AHP uniform. Importantly, they have also pledged that they will not impose a new uniform unless there is consensus across the professions.
The next stage is a series of workshops for AHP representatives to consider other uniform options and work towards an acceptable solution.
So, the next time you come across a CSP survey or chance to get involved, do respond. We need your voice to make things happen. You make a difference.
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