Provision and decontamination of uniforms in the NHS
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Provision and decontamination of uniforms in the NHS

Kathryn J Nye Consultant medical microbiologist, Health Protection Agency, West Midlands Public Health Laboratory, Birmingham Heartlands Hospital, Bordesley Green East, Birmingham
Valerie A Leggett Director of infection prevention and control, Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust, Hellesdon Hospital, University of East Anglia, Norwich
Linda Watterson Senior research and development fellow, Quality improvement programme, RCN Institute, Oxford

Aim To ascertain the provision and decontamination of uniforms within a cross-section of NHS trusts in the UK and to compare policies regarding their use.

Method A questionnaire was circulated to 170 NHS trust infection control teams in the UK. Eighty-six (51 per cent) responses were received, which represented 101 NHS trusts.

Results Less than half of the trusts (47 per cent) provide adequate numbers of uniforms to allow a clean uniform per shift. Only 26 per cent had adequate on-site staff changing facilities and 65 per cent did not launder uniforms. The majority of nursing staff (91 per cent) were compelled, by a combination of these factors, to launder their uniforms at home. Few were provided with any guidance on how to do this safely.

Conclusion There is an urgent need for minimum standards to be set for the provision of uniforms, laundering and changing facilities, to minimise the potential for spread of healthcare-associated infections.

Nursing Standard. 19, 33, 41-45. doi: 10.7748/ns2005.04.19.33.41.c3854