GP practices get a lesson in how corporate couture can help patients

by Scott Douglas

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

Practice Business Magazine

Thousands of GP practices across the UK have been advised how patients could have their surgery visits improved by well-turned out staff.

Influential Practice Business + magazine reaches 10,000 practice managers, office managers and medical partners in GP surgeries across Britain.

It has dedicated three pages in its latest edition to report how a makeover for practice staff could dramatically improve the experience for visiting patients.

The magazine extensively quotes NKD Clothing managing director Gill Eastgate about the importance of appearance- and how well turned out staff are better motivated while inspiring greater confidence in visitors.

Already hugely successful in the hospitality sector, fast-growing NKD Clothing has repeatedly proven how its bespoke uniforms, work wear and corporate clothing have a positive impact on businesses.

Now it is rolling out its offering of specially designed garments in highest quality fabrics to othe sectors – including retail businesses and medical practices.

Here is the original article in full:

Q. What are the latest trends in medical uniforms?

A. Traditionally, medical reception staff tended to wear brightly patterned, round neck blouses.Today that is a very dated look and generally staff don’t like being asked to wear something which has been confined to the style history books.

Getting the look wrong can also send out all the wrong messages to patients or other visitors.

If they turn up and see staff looking uncomfortably in dowdy, dated uniforms that can suggest a practice has gone to seed a bit. Not a good image for a modern medical environment.

When it comes to suits for reception staff, navy blue is typically the most popular colour. At the moment we are also seeing a pronounced rise in the popularity of charcoals as an alternative to black.

Trouser suits can be smart yet comfortable and if worn with a modern cut blouse or simple stretch top, then it allows the staff to look up to date, and comfortable.

Meanwhile, advances in fabric technology are allowing the corporate market to follow more high street trends in terms of styling and detail.

Q. Are there any key uniform features that practice managers should be aware of when purchasing staff uniform? 

A. The simple, golden rule is never give in to false economies.

The cheapest garment almost certainly won’t last as long as those of better quality – and it definitely won’t retain its appearance so well.

We all know that the influx of super cheap garments means you can buy an entire outfit for as little as £20.

However, the cheapest garments are only meant to last a short fashion season. So while a £20 outfit is a bargain for a couple of big nights out, it is a complete no-no for anything being worn to work month after month.

For instance all our ranges use fabrics which have been tested to pass the  textile industry’s rigorous Martindale Abrasion Test. Basically fabrics are rubbed together to the point of destruction to establish how well they stand up to wear and tear.

Typically a good Marks & Spencer garment survives 20,000 abrasions – those used by us and our suppliers  are durable for up to 40,000.

While they cost a bit more,  a superior quality garment lasts way longer and will typically hold its shape and looks good for most of its life.

Of course, there is also an element of practical common sense involved, so that each member of staff should be given enough garments to last the course.

Providing a worker with a single suit and two blouses to be in constant wear will shorten the lifespan of even the best garments.

It’s far better to rotate garments more often – that way they don’t end up looking shoddy.

Q. What are advantages of having a uniform look amongst staff? 

A. This is the million dollar question. It’s impossible to put a financial cost on the benefit of smart looking staff, yet we all know instinctively that it makes a real difference at a fundamental level.

In a medical practice, an important point is that patients can more easily identify who they need to speak to.

Doctor’s surgeries see people from all walks of life, but we know they will often be older people, children or others who are considered vulnerable in some way.

For them and for their relatives it is immediately comforting to know who the point of contact is – especially if that person is smartly turned out and professional-looking.

When you are dealing with older people, generational differences often mean they are particularly reassured by a professional uniform.

For staff the comfort factor of well made work wear is a huge plus. Ask anyone who has ever had to wear a cheap, nylon uniform!

In every walk of life it is widely accepted that when we feel good about ourselves, we give out a more approachable and confident air. The same is true of a work uniform.

Last, but not least, staff are more likely to feel part of a team when they have a clear identity.

Q. What is the best way to achieve cost effective uniform purchasing? 

Be realistic. 

Speak to your uniform supplier about what your ideal is and be open and clear about your budget.

Then you can work together to get the best of both worlds.

For instance, your supplier may be able to find stock-supported lines that are more readily available at a more budget-friendly price point than unique designs.

No-one will thank you if they put in hours of time sourcing the best possible garments only to find out you’ve got a fraction of the budget required.

Q. What is the best way to encourage staff to accept a new uniform?

Let them try things on – and involve them in the process.

Most people actually like choosing new clothes – yes even work uniforms.

So, hold wearer trials for staff and let them try out garments. Even suggest they take items home and put them through a typical wash cycle before placing your final order.

Encouraging  your staff to give honest and open feedback will give them a sense of ownership of the final look.

 

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