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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 October 2007, 14:28 GMT 15:28 UK
'Welsh uniforms' for nurses plan
A person washing hands
Hand washing is a crucial part of hospital cleanliness
Hospital nurses could soon be issued with "Welsh uniforms" so that patients can easily identify their roles.

Other ideas include restricting visiting times so patients get more rest, and boosting the role of ward sisters to raise hospital cleanliness.

Health Minister Edwina Hart's proposals will now be considered by a task group of health professionals and union leaders.

The Conservatives welcomed the ideas, but said many of them were not new.

Mrs Hart said: "The uniform is symbolic of the individual and the organisation.

"I want to ensure that anyone entering our hospitals in Wales knows immediately who is a nurse and who is in charge."

The group to examine the proposals will include representatives of the nursing unions and public health officials.

Edwina Hart
Patients and staff feel more comfortable, safer and more confident in a clean environment and we must ensure that our ward sisters are equipped to deliver the service
Health Minister Edwina Hart

The group will make recommendations on how ward sisters can be given powers to take full control of the ward environment, patient nutrition, visiting times and a new national uniform for nurses.

The group will also examine whether on-site changing facilities should be re-introduced into hospitals.

The proposals come following a commitment to improve hospital cleanliness in the One Wales document put together by Labour and Plaid Cymru which forms the basis of their assembly government coalition.

Mrs Hart said she believed a major part of a ward sister's role was to improve the environment of care including the cleanliness of the ward, the food patients ate, and general standards of health and care.

Safer and more confident

"Of particular concern is the failure to protect meal times," she said.

"We do not always close wards to all but essential visitors and staff at mealtimes and we do not always ensure sufficient practical help is available to enable patients to eat their meals.

"Patients and staff feel more comfortable, safer and more confident in a clean environment and we must ensure that our ward sisters are equipped to deliver the service.

Nurses know that when they are empowered to provide the fundamentals of care that the patient experience improves
Tina Donnelly, Royal College of Nursing

"The rates of health care associated-infections in hospitals are lower in Wales than the UK average. This is further evidence Wales is reducing infections, but we are not complacent and we need to continue to work to drive down rates even further."

Tina Donnelly, director of the Royal College of Nursing Wales, said she supported the minister's announcement and the moves to put the ward sister at the centre of ensuring the best possible patient care.

"Nurses know that when they are empowered to provide the fundamentals of care that the patient experience improves. Today's announcement has risen out of our discussions."

Tory health spokesman Jonathan Morgan said: "While we welcome the Assembly Government's attempts to try and get to grips with this issue, we have heard much of it before.

"Two years ago ministers were promising so-called cleaning tsars, now we have the prospect of new uniforms for nurses. What patients really need is clean hospitals.

"People expect to be treated in an environment where their health is not threatened by illnesses picked up in dirty wards."

Liberal Democrat Jenny Randerson said: "I welcome this action after years of ignored warning signs.

"I hope that great emphasis is placed on the need for patients and visitors to wash their hands on a regular basis to prevent the spread of infection. It is what the evidence suggests works and is very simple.

"I am extremely pleased that the RCN are being involved in this process as they have a lot of expertise in this area and I hope it continues".

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