National healthcare uniform appears to receive 'overwhelming support'

The NHS Supply Chain says its proposals for a consistent national uniform for NHS England staff has received overwhelming support after 75 per cent of allied health professionals surveyed backed the move.

Proposed new uniforms for NHS England staff
Picture for illustrative purposes only and does not reflect the final design

The CSP raised concerns over the low response rate after only about 3,500 physiotherapy workers responded to the survey on the uniform’s introduction.

The CSP warned that members' views must be properly represented before further decisions are made, and committed to working with other AHP bodies to influence how the results will put into practice.

Jim Fahie, assistant director Employment Relations and Union Service, said: 'The CSP believes that our members working in the NHS in England currently wear what is in effect for them, a national uniform.

'We are aware that in certain settings the wearing of a uniform is discouraged in order to project a certain image, and where it may be a barrier to the therapeutic relationship or a risk assessment has highlighted safety concerns.

Any recommendations made from this consultation should be fully tested out with our members as part of a transparent consultation and design process.

Interim results of the national consultation of NHS England workers showed three-quarters of the 10,592 AHPs who responded said a uniform should be mandatory, with a smart scrub tunic being the most popular choice.

According to the results published last month, only about 22 per cent said the introduction should be optional.

Of those AHPs who responded to the seven-week consultation earlier this year, 46 per cent preferred the smart scrub tunic, with 32 per cent opting for a tunic and 22 per cent choosing the scrub. Sixty per cent of respondents requested a dress was included in uniform options.

Kevin Chidlow, tower director for NHS Supply Chain said: 'We’re delighted there has been such overwhelming support from healthcare professionals in the NHS for our proposals.'

Prior to the survey opening, the CSP had highlighted the potential inaccuracy of results as the consultation forced all those voting no to a national uniform to complete all other questions, including which choice of uniform they preferred.

The CSP pointed to other flaws in the survey, with majority of questions having only yes or no answers that steered respondents to back the introduction of the uniform, and the case for change not having been adequately explained in a full, clear and transparent manner.

Members took to Twitter to offer their feedback, with Judith Hall commenting, 'The questions don’t reflect the detail of it as far as I could see, especially the proposed occupational groupings.'

Karen West agreed: 'I thought it was a little short on detail and the need for different dress in different settings.'

However, some were supportive of the move, including Katie Linas who said: 'Advanced roles, seniority and expertise is reflected in the nursing uniforms but not in AHPs. This promotes their role and profession, we should do it for ours.'

Jane Reid added: 'I have been in hospitals in England and Wales working the last few years and the huge amount of different uniforms is confusing for everyone.'

No breakdown was given on how the survey responses related to different groups within the physiotherapy workforce, with detailed findings due to be published over the coming months.  

The CSP has made the case for physiotherapists from different setting to be involved in the testing and design phases before a final decision is made to ensure any new uniforms are fit for purpose.

In Scotland, a national uniform has been in place since 2012, with different colours and shadings being used for different professions. However, CSP members report patients routinely confusing physiotherapy workers with nursing staff.

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