Visiting the operating theatre can be nerve wracking for young patients and families having to wear an ill-fitting, uncomfortable and fiddly hospital gown does little to ease their apprehension.
Acting on feedback from young people and families, the hospital’s project team enlisted the expertise of uniform design company Fashion at Work (UK) to develop an innovative solution which upholds a patient’s dignity at every stage of care, while allowing quick, easy and dignified access for their procedure and follow-up care.
Young people said they wanted a two-piece outfit which led to the development of a Karate-suit style design with a short sleeved top and cut-off trousers. The fabric is comfortable, warm and hardwearing, lasting much longer than the current lightweight NHS gowns and ensuring value for money.
It comes in eight sizes to fit babies up to teenagers and adults, is joined with fasteners at 28 points and the top is reversible so the outfit can be used in every possible scenario in theatre and post-operative care settings, for example complex heart surgery, the insertion of a neck line or hernia repair, or accessing a plaster cast on a broken arm.
Michelle McLoughlin, Chief Nurse at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, said:
“The privacy and dignity of our children and young people is so important to us and we want them to feel protected, safe and secure while they’re with us. We always encourage our young patients to be active as soon as they can as it helps them get better quicker, but they don’t want to run around the ward if they’ve got their bottoms on show.
“The Dignity Giving Suit is the first of its type in the NHS which is based entirely on the needs of our young patients and their clinical requirements and it is truly fit-for-purpose, comfortable, much warmer and something we know they want.
“The feedback from our children and young people has been overwhelmingly positive. Quite a few haven’t wanted to take them off and have asked if they can take them home which is fantastic!”
Bev Ward, Managing Director of Fashion at Work, said:
“This has been an incredibly exciting and challenging project to work on for us. We have been able to bring our many years of experience in the healthcare sector to this design and are extremely proud to be making a real difference to the experience that children and young people have in hospital.
“We made it our top priority to work with doctors, nurses and patients to make sure that we create a product that satisfies the many diverse clinical needs of the hospital, while challenging the utilitarian NHS style to give children and young people something fashionable and fun that they actually want to wear.
“It is an exciting time to be involved in this patient dignity project and we hope that drawing from our experience and collaboration with BCH we can revolutionise the way patients and practitioners look at clinical-wear and provide truly innovative garments to the NHS and wider care community.”
Fifteen year old former patient, Ben MacSkimming from Balsall Common near Solihull, was in hospital for five weeks and is a keen supporter of the new design. Ben said:
“I remember thinking how horrible the theatre gown I had to wear was. It was tight and uncomfortable at the top but baggy and draughty at the bottom at the same time, leaving you quite exposed. I think the new design is brilliant and I wish I could have worn one when I was here!”
The design is fully registered with patent pending and is currently being adapted for the adult market which will be showcased to hospitals across the country later this year.
The hospital’s current stock of 2,000 gowns will be replaced with the Dignity Giving Suits from April 2013 and suits in different colours and patterns will also be on sale for children and young people who want to use them at home too.