Uniforms should not be worn outside of homes

BEFORE I begin, I really don’t want to come across as small minded and petty – I am a great advocate of the ‘live and let live’ school of thought.

However, I feel I have to say something about what seems to be an increasing number of nursing/residential home care assistants wearing their uniform when out and about in public.

Firstly, we are all aware that these hard working people do come into contact with bodily fluids as part of their job, and although I am sure they wear plastic aprons when undertaking certain ‘dirty’ procedures, I know that these do little or nothing to prevent the main uniform from becoming contaminated.

It is not pleasant to be sitting next to a care assistant in uniform in a cafe or queuing behind one in a shop where there is food on display, and one is forced to wonder what sort of bacteria and viruses are being carried about on the uniform and whether the upset stomach you got the other day might have been due to the spread of bacteria.

Secondly, and more importantly in my view, I worry about what the care assistants are bringing in to their place of work from outside.

Nursing and residential home residents are virtually all frail, elderly people and susceptible to infection.

To reinforce my view (and perhaps to justify to myself that I am not just being mean and interfering), I understand that North Tyneside Hospital and indeed the entire trust has a strictly enforced uniform policy where it is a disciplinary offence to wear uniform outside of the hospital grounds.

Whilst this may appear a little draconian, I know quite a few local nurses who tell me that they would not dream of wearing their uniform in public, precisely for the reasons outlined earlier.

MRSA and other infection rates are amongst the lowest in the country in North Tyneside Hospital and I can’t help but link this, at least in part, to the uniform policy.

Who to blame? Well, not the care assistants themselves, although I would have imagined they would have received some form of rudimentary infection control training.

The managers? Partly I suppose as it would be their responsibility to ensure residents of their establishment are not exposed to unnecessary risk in the form of cross infection.

Or maybe we should look to the companies that own the care homes and acknowledge that for some, it is unlikely that they give their underpaid staff sufficient time to change at meal breaks and then change back again, or possibly, adequate changing facilities are not provided as this might mean valuable profit making space would be taken up where a resident’s room could be.

In any event, I do think this issue is of genuine public and local concern.