Nurses criticise ‘confusing’ colour-coded national uniform

The options in England’s new national uniform range have been described as ‘too narrow’ to differentiate between nursing roles and skills

The options in England’s new national uniform range have been described as ‘too narrow’ to differentiate between nursing roles and skills

A picture of the colour uniforms chosen to represent different professions being looked at on a tablet
Picture: iStock

Nurses have given the colour coding for a national NHS uniform in England a dressing down, calling it ‘confusing’ for not distinguishing between registered nurses or different bands.

The colour scheme was announced earlier this week but faced backlash on social media from nurses and other healthcare workers.

England’s standardised national uniform will be introduced next year

NHS Supply Chain, the procurement arm of the NHS overseeing the uniform changes, said it would be updating its frequently asked questions page after being flooded with feedback.

The new uniforms, set to be introduced in England in summer 2024, will see a specific colour allocated to each profession, with nursing associates in sky blue, nursing practitioners in royal blue, nurses in hospital blue and matrons in purple.

Many nurses took to social media to say the colour schemes were confusing, with no clear category for sisters, ward managers or specialist nurses. Others called for a system to differentiate between staff on band 5, 6 and 7 to help identify the skills and experience in each setting.

Colour schemes ‘too narrow’ to differentiate between nurses with different skills and roles

Registered nurse Paul Richards said on Twitter: ‘I'm all for a national uniform, but worry this is too narrow. Will band 6 nurses be in ‘nurse’ or ‘team leader’ colours? How about educators? We wear ‘specialist’ colours here, but not sure nurse practitioner is quite right? I wonder if this is a bit too over simplified?’

A picture of the new colour uniforms with a key to indicate which profession they represent
Some nurses commented that the new coding system fails to differentiate between nursing roles

Others suggested that it would be much simpler to copy Scotland’s uniform model, which uses just three shades of blue for nursing staff. Scotland has had a national uniform for several years.

Registered nurse Craig Davidson wrote on TikTok: ‘It's very confusing there are so many. Scotland's is much simpler.’

‘Waste of money’: prioritise care over uniforms, some say

Others called the scheme a ‘waste of money’ and said many trusts would struggle to implement a new uniform at a time of huge demands on their services.

Emma Cuthbert wrote on TikTok: ‘New uniforms is not the priority, spend the money on the nurses, they deserve it.’

Maxine Gray agreed on Facebook: ‘The NHS is broken, has zero budget but uniform change is a priority! Patients don’t care what we wear…as long as they get the care! To most patients someone in uniform is there to help them whatever their role and title.’

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