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DOCTORS' WHITE COAT FALLS VICTIM TO MRSA

18-09-2007

MRSA

The traditional white doctors coat is on its way out…the latest victim of hospital bugs like MRSA. Health Secretary Alan Johnson has issued a new dress code for medics, who are being advised to avoid sleeves below the elbow and even ties. Dr David Nicholl reports on what to wear on the ward.

Well, this isn't exactly news, I haven't worn a white coat in 15 years, and I can't think of any colleague who wears one - apart from a chap who's about to retire.

Hospital acquired infections are a very real issue which all of us take seriously- I stopped wearing a white coat years ago as the hospital laundry was closed, so getting a clean one was a bit of a problem.

I endeavour to wash and spray my hands after every patient contact, however, I'm not so sure that the new policy on healthcare uniforms will be quite what its cooked up in the press - especially when the DoH's own policy released today specifically states that "there is no conclusive evidence that uniforms (or other work clothes) pose a significant hazard in terms of spreading infection" but "it seems that the public believe there is a risk".

Maybe the fact that hospitals are working to such a high turnover with 100% bed occupancy might be more of an issue in controlling infection.

So is this more about spin?

To be honest, if I have to chuck in my tie and wear a short-sleeved shirt, I won't lose too much sleep - it will give me the final incentive to cycle the 10 miles to work.

But although I might get fitter, I remain unconvinced that the MRSA rates will drop based on my dress sense alone. The infection control issue is a little more complex than a medics uniform from another era.

(MRSA = Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus)

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