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New NHS uniforms: ‘colour-coding is generic for a reason’

Man leading introduction of national uniform for nurses and other staff groups said trusts now being consulted over which roles correspond to which colours
Unseen woman holds tablet computer, man standing alongside. Both pointing to screen displaying image of NHS colour-coding for NHS uniforms

Man leading introduction of national uniform for nurses and other staff groups said trusts now being consulted over which roles correspond to which colours

Unseen woman holds tablet computer, man standing alongside. Both pointing to screen displaying image of NHS colour-coding for NHS uniforms
Picture: iStock

Colour-coded job titles announced for the new national NHS uniforms in England are deliberately generic so each can represent a variety of roles, it is claimed.

NHS Supply Chain (NHSSC), which is overseeing the uniform introduction, confirmed a variety of jobs will be represented by one colour and work was under way to determine the clinically appropriate way to categorise and therefore colour-code roles.

There had been criticism from nurses and other healthcare workers on social media after the colours were revealed in September. Some said the colourways did not distinguish between bands and job roles. The scheme was labelled 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 make it easier to identify levels of skills and experience.

Job titles designed to accommodate a variety of roles in their colourways

In response, NHSSC updated its online information page to address concerns and its uniform procurement lead Kevin Chidlow told Nursing Standard: ‘The descriptions and titles used for the colourways were designed to be generic so that a variety of roles can go into the colour scheme.

‘We are actively engaging with trusts and senior stakeholders to understand where it is clinically appropriate for professions to align to the chosen colourways. This will then form the basis of national guidance. We will continue to listen to feedback and engage accordingly.’


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Hear Kevin Chidlow and Tracey Cammish of NHS Supply Chain discuss putting nurses and other clinicians at the heart of NHS procurement, during an afternoon session at Nursing Live on 10 November.

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National uniform for nursing staff in NHS England

Advice adapted from NHS Supply Chain’s ‘frequently asked questions’ page:

  • Where does my role fit in the colourways?
    The uniform project covers all trusts including acute, community and mental health settings. NHSSC are working with trusts that want to adopt the uniform to help determine which role sits with which colourway in their trust, while maintaining a national approach
  • Will the uniforms fit and be comfortable?
    The uniform has been designed for all body types. We are working very closely with our suppliers and specialists to do this and have undertaken extensive wearer trials with NHS staff from different professions to ensure this uniform is the best possible fit and represents the diversity of the workforce
  • Have dresses been included?
    Yes, and are available across all colourways
  • Will the new uniform keep me cooler than my current uniform?
    It will provide comfort for all wearers, including those who are peri-menopausal or menopausal. Our chosen fabric is considerably lighter than that of the traditional tunic and has more stretch

Source: NHS Supply Chain

New nurse uniforms ‘will save NHS money’

Many nurses have raised concerns about the cost of a new national uniform, given the pressures facing the NHS. But NHSSC states the national uniform will save the NHS money by standardising uniforms that are made for the whole service.

‘The savings to be made by each trust will vary depending on current price, but across England we can deliver around 30% savings. This equates to around £10 million over two years if we all adopt the new uniform,’ NHSSC states.


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