Maternity staff in England vote for a new standardised uniform

By Lydia O'Neill on 04 June 2021

The NHS Supply Chain consultation on uniforms in England came to a close this week and, as well as encouraging members to make individual submissions, the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) conducted its own survey of members.   

The RCM wanted to find out what midwives and maternity support workers would change about their uniform. In response to the main question – should there be a standardised uniform? – 74 per cent said that there should.

The survey of over 5,000 respondents made clear that the majority think it is important for midwives to be distinctive from other healthcare professionals, with 93 per cent agreeing to a distinct look. The RCM says this is a reflection on the importance of identity as a midwife but also a reflection on the importance of safety in maternity services.

RCM Chief Executive, Gill Walton said: “The identity of a midwife has a strong link to the safety of maternity services. Safety is embedded in the ability of midwives to be able to empower women, to be their advocates at all levels and to make sure the care they receive is right for them. When midwives are confused with another profession their identity gets lost and so does their voice, not only for themselves, but for the women in their care. Even a nursing-style uniform can disrupt this relationship.

“The survey results are the voice of our members calling for autonomy over their professional identity but also deep rooted in that call is the need to be better recognised by the women they are looking after. Role confusion also impedes the midwife voice throughout the NHS, which is key to the future development of safe services.”

On the question of what to wear, the results reflected the varied roles there are in maternity services, including desk-based roles to highly physical ones. With the choice of ordinary scrubs, smart scrubs, tunic and trousers, dress and polo shirt and trousers, smart scrubs were the overall preferred option, with 68 per cent of the vote.