Page last updated at 12:15 GMT, Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Hospital gown redesigned to save patients' modesty

By Michelle Roberts
Health reporter, BBC News

Man in a hospital gown
Traditional gowns allow easy access but can leave patients exposed

The traditional draughty and backless hospital gown is getting a Hollywood-style makeover by one of the world's top designers.

Ben de Lisi, famed for creating red-carpet frocks for stars like Kate Winslet, says his "aspirational" new design will preserve patients' modesty.

The old gowns have been criticised for leaving patients laid bare.

The Design Council will unveil the design next month as part of a project to improve dignity across the NHS.

Health Minister Ann Keen said the designer gowns would be introduced into NHS hospitals in England by early 2011.

The old hospital gown was hideous, embarrassing, ill-fitting and probably ill-making too
Designer Ben de Lisi

She said: "As a nurse, I know that when patients visit hospital, the gown they wear is exceptionally important.

"Patients need to feel confident and comfortable in what can be difficult situations."

De Lisi told the BBC News website that he designed the gowns with comfort in mind.

Ben de Lisi with his designs
Ben de Lisi's early concepts met with great approval

"The old hospital gown was hideous, embarrassing, ill-fitting and probably ill-making too.

"You are away from home, ill, and in hospital and you have to wear this horrific garment with your arse hanging out. Give me a break.

"I wanted the new gowns to feel fabulous and aspirational.

"They are made from beautiful cotton shirting which is very smooth, cool and lux."


He said his design means patients can have their modesty covered but still allow medics immediate access through clever "entrance points" in the gown.

"It's infinitely dignified, yet practical. And Velcro doesn't enter into the equation."

De Lisi's NHS collection, in his signature printed fabric, also includes pyjama bottoms, nightwear and slippers.

Design Council chief executive David Kester said the designs, funded by £25,000 from the Department of Health, were a great and affordable improvement.

"The new designs are going to be very competitively priced and within the current price range for the NHS, even with the designer connection."

He said teams of designers and architects were working on other projects to redesign NHS hospitals in England to improve the experience for patients.

Several hospital trusts are already switching to more dignified wraparound gowns, albeit without the designer label.

Katherine Murphy, director of the Patients Association, said the news would be welcomed by patients.

"Very often when people are admitted to hospital they don't have enough time to bring some pyjamas or a dressing gown with them and have to wear hospital gowns.

"But when you are ill, the last thing you need is to be embarrassed as well."

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