Sweltering nurses plea for lighter uniforms

The Simpsons Maternity hospital. Pic: Rob McDougall

The Simpsons Maternity hospital. Pic: Rob McDougall

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NURSES are demanding NHS bosses scrap a strict uniform policy and allow them to remove their heavy scrubs which are causing them to stew in the summer heat.

The Evening News has previously revealed how several nurses at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary have been on the brink of collapse after temperatures in some wards soared above 30C.

To combat the heat, health chiefs lifted a ban on patients bringing in their own electric fans and said employees were entitled to extra water breaks.

But nurses have complained they are working 12-hour shifts without regular access to fluids and have been told they cannot change into lighter “scrubs”.

They claim bottled water is banned from work stations because of infection control and they are too busy to go to designated drinking areas.

Health bosses have denied the claims.

But one nurse, who works within the Simpson’s maternity building, said the “unbearable” conditions were effecting the quality of patient care.

She said: “It’s having a big impact on how people work, everything’s taking longer.

“It’s so hot that the uniform is sticking to us all and if you’re doing a job that involves gloves and an apron, you feel like you’re going to combust.

“The bosses won’t let us wear lighter uniforms, if you’re seen in a theatre blue [worn by surgery staff] you’re in trouble.”

The problem has been blamed on a lack of air conditioning in the privately-built hospital and windows that only open four inches – a safety feature.

Tom Waterson, Unison branch chair for Lothian, said he has been contacted by dozens of hospital staff who are struggling to keep cool.

He said: “We are encouraging staff to come to us if they are having difficulties and we will take it up with the relevant people as a matter of urgency.

“We expect NHS bosses to adhere to health and safety guidelines – which includes water breaks – and do anything they can to make conditions better, including lighter uniforms.”

Politicians have backed the calls for rules to be relaxed.

Alison Johnstone, Green MSP for Lothian, said: “Management need to act decisively to make conditions acceptable. It’s surprising this fairly new building doesn’t seem able to cope with hot weather, so I urge those in charge to look at what new measures might improve the situation.”

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: “We should encourage everyone to dress lightly, drink water regularly and do all they can to keep cool.”

Alan Boyter, director of human resources at NHS Lothian, said they were unaware of complaints and encouraged the use of water bottles.

He said: “We know our staff are extremely busy and we are urging them to make sure they take regular breaks and have access to water, especially during the current hot weather.”

kate.pickles@edinburghnews.com

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