NHS national uniform 'will not be enforced' after CSP challenge

A recent CSP survey into proposals for a national uniform found 88 per cent of respondents oppose its mandatory introduction - and supply chain bosses confirmed uniform choices would not be enforced nationally after we shared our findings.

National uniform consultation picture for illustrative purposes only and does not reflect the final design
National uniform consultation picture for illustrative purposes only and does not reflect the final design

In response to challenge from the CSP and other professional bodies, NHS Supply Chain agreed that there are many clinical settings where it is not deemed appropriate to wear a uniform because of the effect this may have on a patient, insisting uniform choices would not be mandatory but would be a matter of local policy.

After meeting with supply bosses to present our survey results, CSP was given assurances that the polo shirt would remain an option for physiotherapy workers whatever the outcome of the uniform design process and that there would be further consultation with AHPs before decisions were made, particularly over the option of a single colour AHP uniform. 

Earlier this year, NHS Supply Chain, which provides all NHS uniforms, had unveiled proposals to reduce the 30,000 uniform styles currently available in NHS England to one shared style for all staff groups.  One option under these proposals was for all AHPs to wear the same colour uniform. But in our survey, fewer than a quarter of CSP members backed that idea, with the suggestion attracting the highest number of critical comments.

CSP head of practice improvement Helen Sharma said the CSP is pleased to hear that uniform will not be enforced in all situations, and that polo shirts remain an option, but there is more work to do.

There are clearly very strong views on a single colour AHP uniform, so we are now urging NHS Supply Chain to co-produce with us a further consultation with all options laid out clearly and with enough information for members to make an informed decision.

In a survey of CSP members held over the summer, the majority said there should be exceptions for where uniform negatively affects therapist and patient relationships or safety, and that trusts should have the option of whether or not to adopt the new uniform.  

The majority of respondents (69 per cent), thought each of the 14 AHP professions should have a different colour uniform. Though suppliers have warned that due to its limited colour range for clothing, there remains doubt over whether this option would be achievable in practice.

If a single colour uniform was enforced, 62 per cent thought that embroidery with their professional title would be the best way to tell AHP professionals apart. The issue of professional identity remains high on the agenda as the process continues.

Other themes that emerged in the CSP survey were the need for clear identifiers for those operating at a specialist level of practice and the fact a uniform may compromise the therapeutic relationship in community or paediatric settings. Comments in the survey highlighted the impact of uniform on children and young people and people with learning disabilities. This included heightened anxiety and adverse behavioural responses.

Variation and choice and comfort were also key, members said in comments. With physios often called to work in two or more setting in one day, from ITU to a leisure centre rehab class, clothing must remain appropriate for all settings and sectors, members argued. Respondents emphasised the active nature of the job, requiring flexible clothing that preserves modesty.

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