Shetland Health Board staff this week started wearing the new national uniforms introduced by NHS Scotland.

The colour-coded workwear has been introduced to standardise uniforms throughout the country, and will make it easier for patients and staff to identify the different ranks.

Lack of consistency was one of the main reasons for the change – it emerged there were more than 250 styles of tunic in more than 100 different colours being worn by staff across Scotland. This ambiguity of staff roles was confusing for staff, patients and the public.

There were also differences in the quality and cost of the uniforms. Standardisation will be a more cost-effective option for the health service.

The move was welcomed by NHS Shetland nurse director Kathleen Carolan, who said: “The new national uniforms will provide staff with better quality uniforms and the consistent use of styles and colours will give us the professional identity we deserve and help patients and the public to identify our roles. The new uniforms will also save the NHS money as this is a more cost effective way of purchasing uniforms.”

The roll-out of the new uniforms started on Monday for all Shetland’s healthcare staff and will continue to the end of the year. Across Scotland it will be complete by 2012.

Workers from a wide range of professions including nurses, midwives, therapists, community staff and dentists will be wearing the new uniforms.

Developed in conjunction with staff, the new working apparel comprises simple tunics in lightweight stretch fabric, designed to be cool in the hospital environment and to allow easy movement. They have side vents but no buttons, zips, collar or breast pockets, and are worn with dark navy trousers.

Uniforms come in shades of blue and green, with senior charge nurses and team leaders wearing dark blue to denote that they are in charge of the clinical areas in the hospital and the community.

Registered nurses’ uniforms are cornflower blue, with “Mediterranean” blue for allied health professionals and pale sky blue for unregistered staff and support workers.

Catering and domestic staff have dark green uniforms, with mid-green for “facilities” staff, including porters.

The wearer’s professional role is embroidered on each uniform.

In common with all health boards, NHS Shetland has strict guidelines about appearance at work. The emphasis is on a professional image and crucially, infection control – the new uniforms are short-sleeved to promote hand hygiene.

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