Nursing staff in various uniforms

NHS Supply Chain to consult on standardised national NHS uniform

NHS staff working in clinical roles across England are being invited to take part in a seven-week consultation period with NHS Supply Chain around the potential introduction of a standardised national healthcare uniform.

Under the current system, NHS Supply Chain’s specialist hotel services buying function offers a uniform contract which provides NHS trusts a compliant framework from which to specify the design, style and colours.

As a result, there is often variation of uniform between different NHS trusts, with many styles, colours, embroidery and rank identifiers dependent on each trust.

Interested in potentially reducing that to one shared style for all staff groups, differentiated by 15 to 20 colours, NHS Supply Chain is seeking input from healthcare assistants, nurses, midwives and allied health professionals across the country.

In announcing the consultation, they emphasised their desire for the standardised national uniform to be culturally sensitive and offer NHS trusts the opportunity to better plan for and react to increased uniform demand, such as those experienced during the pandemic.

Other benefits raised by the potential introduction of a standardised national uniform include:

  • Improved patient safety, supporting recommendations made in the 2013 Francis Inquiry
  • Greater recognition of staff by patients and the public
  • Improved view of professionalism in appearance by staff
  • Development of a high performing, ethical and sustainable supply chain, with a single NHS brand across the patient care pathway, providing consistency across the whole of the NHS in England

The consultation document asks whether healthcare professionals agree with a national uniform approach and if so, whether they think it should become mandatory, meaning all NHS organisations would be required to adopt it.

It also asks a set of questions about the garment style and features, to help identify the key aspects felt necessary for a uniform to be well designed and fit for purpose.

Ruth May, Chief Nursing Officer for England said: “Patients have told us that, for them, contact with several NHS professionals in a hospital and non-hospital setting can sometimes feel confusing, frequently due to not knowing who does which role.

We want patients and the public to be able to easily identify which nursing, midwifery or care professional is providing their care. Keeping patients and staff safe is fundamental to this consultation so please have your say.”  

Chief Allied Health Professions Officer for England Suzanne Rastrick added: “At this time of transformation and recovery, there is a huge opportunity to truly demonstrate the key contribution to care that allied health professionals make, alongside nursing and midwifery colleagues. We believe that a national, culturally sensitive uniform could potentially bring some major benefits: for patients, for staff and for the public...but your voices are critical to informing this so I urge you to complete the consultation document so your views are heard.”  

Kevin Chidlow, Tower Director for NHS Supply Chain explained: “This consultation is the chance for NHS staff working in hospitals and in the community across England and their representative bodies, to have their say on the potential creation of a fit for purpose, easy to wear, smart and comfortable uniform for the diverse and professional NHS workforce.  

“We have developed a case for change which focuses on patient safety, professional image, equality, diversity and inclusion, value for money and sustainability. We welcome thoughts and insights from all healthcare professionals, which make up 60 percent of the whole of the NHS workforce.”

NHS staff can find out more details and have their say by accessing the NHS Supply Chain proposal here.

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NHE May/June 2024

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