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Staffing issuesMay 26, 2023

Physiotherapists in the NHS buck the trend by backing an option to wear mainly white tops at work

Physiotherapists, occupational therapist and orthotists will buck a trend backed by the other allied health professions (AHPs) by continuing to wear uniforms with a base colour of white while working in the NHS in England.

Most of the other groups that fall under the AHP umbrella opted to sport 'smart scrub tunic' with a dark magenta hue, a colour that gained the most support among their members, the NHS Supply Chain announced earlier this week (24 May). Physiotherapists and other AHPs had their chance to state their preferred colour from a selection in a ‘base colourway survey’ (which included pale grey) that closed on 31 January 2023.

More physiotherapists voiced their opinion in the survey than any other AHP profession (23.2 per cent of all respondents), being closely followed by radiographers (21.6 per cent). 

Photo Credit: Shutterstock
Physiotherapists adopted white as 'their preferred choice', the survey report notes

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Thousands of AHPs took part in survey

‘After an overwhelming response from over 26,000 AHPs, representing different occupations, regions, genders, ages and ethnic groups, we can confirm that AHPs will be allocated a single base colour which is aligned with the vote received from their members,’ the NHS body stated.

‘In the main, this means most will adopt dark magenta with physiotherapy, occupational therapy and orthotists adopting white as this was their preferred choice.’

Important caveat

There was a caveat in the announcement, however. The NHS Supply Chain said the workforce consultation did not signal the end of the ‘engagement process’. ‘It is imperative that the views of individuals and representative bodies right across the NHS continue to be heard and considered as we move forward,’ it noted.

‘We will communicate progress with the project when appropriate and will continue to take guidance and direction from NHS England and NHS Improvement.’ The NHS Supply said its staff will continue to engage with professional bodies [such as the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy] to ‘ensure the voice of the NHS workforce continues to be heard’.

We believe that the responses clearly show that there is an overwhelming desire across the NHS to adopt a standard national uniform and that this approach should be followed by all trusts [Kevin Chidlow, NHS Supply Chain:Hotel Services]

Regional preference

The preference for dark magenta was consistent across all regions of England, with the highest percentage of first choice votes in London (47.8 per cent) and the lowest in the south west (39.9

The preference for dark magenta was consistent across all regions of England, with the highest percentage of first choice votes in London (47.8 per cent) and the lowest in the south west (39.9 per cent).

Last December, the NHS Supply Chain said that it had been conducting a ‘wearer trial’, with the new garments being ‘verified’ with an independent testing house to ensure high standards of quality – for example, in terms of fabric durability, washability and colour fastness.

To see the NHS Supply Chain release, click 

To see the AHP consultation report, click 

Author: Ian A McMillan
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