Doctors and medical students in India should stop wearing white coats, a Mangalore based doctor has advised.
Edmond Fernandes, a postgraduate at Yenepoya Medical College, said that there was evidence that long sleeved coats spread infection and lead to avoidable harm and cost to patients.
Although long sleeved white coats have traditionally been worn by doctors since the 19th century, it was now known that white coats "harbour potential contaminants and contribute considerably to the burden of disease acquired in hospital by spreading infection," wrote Fernandes.
He explained that in India, changing areas in hospitals were rare because of space constraints, so white coats were commonly worn by students coming from college and outside the hospital.
He added that given India's tropical climate, common sense indicated that we should discourage wearing white coats that are washed perhaps only every few weeks.
He also pointed out that in 2007, the United Kingdom took the landmark decision to ban long sleeved white coats - and that in 2009, the American Medical Association wanted to follow suit and dump the white coats, "but the proposal was dismissed because clinicians wanted to keep their traditional gowns."
If India's ministry of health banned doctors and medical students from wearing white coats, to reduce the harm and cost that results from hospital acquired infections, it would be an easy win for the country.
The study is published in The BMJ.