Advising with empathy and experience

Health risks from uniforms.

Potentially harmful infections are being carried on the uniforms of nurses who launder them at home because they are not washed in high enough temperatures, a new report says.

The report by the Textile Service Association (TSA) calls on the Department of Health and NHS to recognise that infections might be spread in hospitals and homes by the almost universal practice of nurses taking their uniforms home to wash. It urges a change of policy.

NHS Trusts are following hygiene guidelines from the Department of Health but Britain is almost the only European country that allows home-washed uniforms to be worn by nurses.

TSA chief executive, Murray Simpson, says: “Department of Health guidelines irresponsibly allow nurses to wash their uniforms at home in totally unsuitable domestic washing machines.

“Our research shows that domestic machines do not reach a high enough temperature, nor maintain the degree of heat necessary to remove bacteria picked up during a nurse’s working day.”

The TSA is calling for an urgent review of current policy and the adoption of a system allowing for the professional laundering of uniforms in a controlled environment to remove risk of infection.

Murray Simpson adds: “The Department of Health and NHS ignore the risks of home-washed uniforms at their peril. When considering the risks to people’s lives, the costs of ignoring this potential threat should not be just measured in monetary value.”