New DoH hygiene measures spread to primary care

Health secretary Alan Johnson has declared the end of the doctor’s white coat, in a package of measures to improve hygiene in the NHS.

New guidance on clothing will mean that hospitals have to adopt a ‘bare below the elbows’ dress code, forcing staff to wear only short sleeves. They will not be allowed to wear wristwatches or jewellery, and must avoid neck ties, while carrying out clinical activity.

The National Patient Safety Agency will also extend its successful ‘clean your hands’ campaign to care settings outside hospitals. The campaign, designed to improve hand hygiene among healthcare workers to combat healthcare associated infections, will be rolled out to primary care, ambulance, mental health and care trusts as well as to care homes and hospices.

Mr Johnson said: ‘I'm determined that patient safety, including cleanliness, should be the first priority of every NHS organisation. Across the NHS we continue to bring the number of MRSA cases down and make progress on measures to reduce C.difficile.’

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, head of BMA Science and Ethics, said: ‘The BMA is pleased that the government has taken on board many of the recommendations outlined in the BMA's report on reducing hospital acquired infections, for example the call to for doctors to stop wearing ties and white coats in hospitals and how it was preferable for clinicians to wear short-sleeves.

‘However, any new guidelines on dress code must be practical, realistic, and sensitive to different religious groups.’

General secretary of the RCN Dr Peter Carter said: ‘Nurses are at the forefront of initiatives to tackle healthcare associated infections but in order to be successful we need commitment from the entire NHS team; from all staff, in all disciplines and in every healthcare setting.’

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