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Letter: Does My Bum Look Bare in This?

Published on: 27 May, 2021
Updated on: 27 May, 2021

The existing gown, modelled with underpants still worn.

From: Ray Rogers

elected Royal Surrey County Hospital governor for Guildford

I think I have achieved an improvement in patient dignity.

If you have ever been a patient in hospital, you have probably encountered a particular patient gown used widely across the NHS. It is the backless one. Even those of you who are fit will have been challenged to tie a bow behind your neck and if, in error, you tied a knot you will have struggled to get the gown off.

More significantly your dignity will have been compromised by a display of your underwear or worse, as in the photograph modelled by me. To solve the problem, some hospitals give out two gowns – one for the front and one for the back.

For some time I have been of the view that these gowns should be replaced right across the NHS by a wrap-around style. Letters to Royal Colleges, the Department of Health, the Care Quality Commission and current Health Ministers, and their shadows in opposition parties, have failed to gain traction. Not unreasonably they pointed out that such matters are for local decision.

I am a governor at the Royal Surrey NHS Foundation Trust, so I raised the matter at an annual members meeting. I was delighted that the Trust’s chief nurse agreed with the comments about the unsatisfactory aspects of the gowns and decided to undertake an investigation into possible solutions.

The new style gown, all modesty preserved.

Alternative gowns, including the “wrap-arounds”, are available. However, as no gown is without its drawbacks, an evaluation was undertaken.

Three options were selected and one chosen, which is known as the ‘three armed toga’ (see second photograph). The Trust purchased 500 of these gowns and they were trialled over three months on different wards and departments.

A questionnaire survey showed 90 per cent felt the new gown offered dignity, good coverage and a better fit. Patient comments included: “The new gown is a fantastic improvement.”

The result is that the Trust will be introducing the new gowns to all suitable wards and outpatient departments. The traditional style of gowns will continue to be used for some patient groups, including the very elderly and frail, who may find the toga too confusing.

So well done the Royal Surrey, a great improvement in patient dignity. Now I hope to get my fellow governors in other hospitals to encourage the same.

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