Pants, policies and paranoia.

J Hosp Infect. 2010 Jan;74(1):10-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jhin.2009.10.012. Epub 2009 Nov 20.


In response to the rising tide of hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) in UK hospitals, governmental health departments have introduced dress codes for healthcare staff. These include measures such as the use of short sleeves, no wristwatches or jewellery, and avoidance of ties and white coats. Although hospital pathogens have been found on such items, there is no evidence that they play a major role in transmitting HAIs and these policies have received much criticism. This Leader examines the evidence underpinning the new dress codes and concludes that there is insufficient evidence to justify recent policies. Dress codes appear to have been imposed more for political purposes than in deference to effective infection control. In addition, the UK 'zero tolerance' mandate towards HAI does not balance personal accountability against a failing healthcare system. These policies may try to impose good practice but over-reliance on cheap, short-term solutions will not adequately address longer-term problems with HAI.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Clothing / standards*
  • Cross Infection / prevention & control*
  • Health Personnel*
  • Health Policy*
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Infection Control / methods*
  • United Kingdom