Home Health NHS uniforms are too thick, sweaty and uncomfortable for women going through the menopause, argue campaigners

NHS uniforms are too thick, sweaty and uncomfortable for women going through the menopause, argue campaigners

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Activists call for a

NHS uniforms are too thick, sweaty and uncomfortable for women going through menopause, campaigners say.

They are calling for an “urgent review” of women’s uniforms, warning that they have not been designed with menopausal workers in mind.

Delegates to Unison’s annual National Women’s Conference, which opens in Brighton today, will be asked to back a motion calling for the introduction of uniforms that do not reveal sweat stains, as well as uniforms made of lighter cotton for staff. Fighting menopause symptoms, especially in hot climates.

Women make up 77 per cent of the NHS workforce, while around a third of all NHS staff are over 50.

An estimated 260,000 NHS workers are women aged between 45 and 54. Menopause symptoms usually occur between the mid-40s and early 50s and can include hot flashes, sweating, muscle aches, and anxiety.

Campaigners are calling for an “urgent review” of women’s uniforms, warning they have not been designed with menopausal workers in mind.

Proposing the motion, Unison members said: ‘There is a clear lack of adequate facilities and a lack of awareness about menopause across the NHS. The uniforms are just one example that demonstrates this.

‘They are made of thick, heavy cotton which is uncomfortable, rough and unpleasant under the best of conditions. With the removal of fans and air circulation units in wards, the extreme heat, along with hot flashes and an extra layer of PPE, is unbearable.’

Although there are plans afoot to roll out a new national NHS uniform across England, uniforms are currently managed by individual NHS trusts, and each has their own styles and colours.

Official guidance for NHS managers on menopause support staff, published in 2022, asks health chiefs to consider whether uniforms are made from “suitable, breathable fabrics” and whether there are “additional uniforms/garments available if required”.

But speaking before the conference opened, Josie Irwin, Unison’s equalities director, said some Trusts were “still in the dark ages”.


Menopause is when a woman stops having periods and can no longer get pregnant naturally.

It usually occurs between 45 and 55 years of age.

It is a normal part of aging and is caused by falling levels of the sex hormone estrogen.

Some women go through this time with few, if any, symptoms.

Others experience hot flashes, difficulty sleeping, mood swings, and brain fog, which can last for months or years and may change over time.

HRT replaces hormones and is the main treatment used to treat symptoms, which can be severe and disrupt daily life.

Menopause occurs when the ovaries stop producing as much of the hormone estrogen and no longer release an egg each month.

She said: ‘The overwhelming majority of staff working in the NHS are women and there are many more women over 50 working now than there were 20 years ago.

‘Although there are some examples of NHS trusts with good menopause policies, unfortunately some are still stuck in the dark ages. We know that eight out of ten women experience menopause symptoms and 45 percent find it difficult to cope with them.

“Menopause and uniforms are an issue and it is important to draw attention to the role employers can play in helping people affected by symptoms to have a lighter uniform if they wish.”

She said the right to request a different uniform should be seen as a “reasonable flexibility” that NHS employers could make to “encourage women to continue doing their job and not have to get sick”.

“A simple adjustment, such as not having to wear heavy cotton or scratchy nylon at work, would allow (more women) to work comfortably, improve morale and ensure there is a fully staffed NHS,” she added.

When NHS England chief Amanda Pritchard launched guidance on menopause in the workplace in 2022, she called for menopausal women to be offered cooler uniforms and fans at work.

At the time, she said: “Women need to feel they can talk openly about menopause, so we need to break the taboos, increase support and help more women thrive at every stage of their working lives, and opening up the conversation is the first step”. .’

NHS Supply Chain, which is overseeing the upcoming rollout of new standardized uniforms across the NHS, said the updated uniforms “will provide comfort to all wearers, including those who are perimenopausal or menopausal.”

A spokesperson said: ‘Compared to a traditional tunic, the fabric we chose is considerably lighter and offers a cooler experience.

‘In addition, this fabric incorporates at least 10 percent mechanical elasticity, which further improves the comfort of users.

“Women with perimenopausal or menopausal symptoms participated in wear testing and their feedback was incorporated into the evaluation and design of the uniforms.”

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