Ipswich doctor's NHS watch complaint

A SENIOR doctor at Ipswich Hospital said today that the government's “bare below the elbows” policy for NHS staff is potentially dangerous and not backed by science.

A SENIOR doctor at Ipswich Hospital said today that the government's “bare below the elbows” policy for NHS staff is potentially dangerous and not backed by science.

Sarah McCracken, a specialist registrar in geriatric medicine, said the banning of wristwatches and jewellery would do nothing to combat hospital infections.

The Department of Health policy - aimed at tackling the spread of hospital bugs like MRSA and Clostridium difficile - has been introduced from this month.

It tells staff to wear short sleeves, no wristwatch, no jewellery and to avoid wearing ties during clinical practice.

The traditional doctor's white coat will also “not be allowed” and the new guidance “will ensure good hand and wrist washing”.

But Ms McCracken and James Henderson, a specialist registrar in plastic surgery at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital NHS Trust, wrote to the British Medical Journal to say that banning wristwatches for doctors is potentially dangerous.

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Ipswich Hospital, however, said national guidance was there to reduce the number of infections.

Ms McCracken and Mr Henderson argued that doctors need a second hand to measure things like pulse and respiratory rate, especially in emergency situations.

The doctors cited a study of 20 staff and said it was often not possible for staff to distinguish normal from abnormal pulse and respiratory rate without the use of a second hand.

“This study highlights the necessity for doctors to have sight of a second hand when assessing patients, especially in emergency situations where a clock might not be present,” the doctors wrote.

Fob watches are impractical for some procedures and a ban on wristwatches would oblige trusts to provide each bedspace with its own clock with a second hand - which could be disturbing, they said.

Ipswich hospital spokeswoman Jan Rowsell said: “The view of the senior registrar is a personal and academic one.

“We enforce national guidance on infection control as reducing the rate and number of infections is a top priority for us.”

A DoH spokesman said: “The dress code for clinicians helps to support effective hand-washing and so reduces the risk of patients catching infections.

“It does not prevent clinicians from doing their job. We would expect clinicians to use clocks to measure pulse rates as this is good clinical practice.”