HC Deb 12 December 1985 vol 88 cc763-5W
Mr. Carter-Jones

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) what assessment he has made of the fire risks arising from flammable materials used in nursing and in nurses' uniforms; what steps he takes to promote non flammable materials for nurses' uniform dresses; and if he will make a statement;

(2) what representations he has received regarding the flammability of nurses' uniform dresses; if he has received any representations on the strength and flexibility of the materials used in nurses' uniforms; if any research has been done on the impact of material for nurses' uniforms on back pain; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Hayhoe

Following the fire at Treliske hospital in 1983 the Department commissioned flammability tests at the Shirley institute, Manchester on a range of dresses made from a variety of materials and including a number of nurses' uniform dresses, and the report was placed in the Library. The report demonstrated that dresses made from 100 per cent. polyester had superior flammability properties to those of other materials.

A working group conducted a range of tests on dresses of various materials and I am arranging for copies of its report to be placed in the Library. The trials and tests demonstrated that there were no substantial differences except that dresses made from flame retardant polyester had superior flammability characteristics. The report has been considered by the Department and the Health Service Supply Council and following consultations within the National Health Service it was concluded that there were no grounds for changing the material of the present nurses' uniform dress. Copies of the report and of the Department's conclusions have been sent to the Royal College of Nursing.

The Department has not undertaken any research on the impact of the material of nurses' uniforms on back pain. However the Royal College of Nursing has made representations about the design of current dresses and restrictions on movement. Some small changes in design have been made. The northern regional health authority as the centre of responsibility for National Health Service purchase of textile products is, in conjunction with the Department, considering further and more wide-ranging design aspects.