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Claims by the Department of Health that 99% of trusts are providing single-sex accommodation have been proven false by the findings of an inquiry into mixed-sex wards in hospitals.
The chief nursing officer, Professor Christine Beasley, found that 28 trusts in England, 15% of the total, have been receiving support by strategic health authorities to eliminate mixed-sex accommodation.
The report makes a crucial distinction between mixed-sex accommodation and mixed-sex wards. It claims that as long as men and women are sensitively cared for in separate bays or rooms and have their own toilet facilities, then it can be appropriate for all patients with certain medical needs to be on the same ward, being cared for by the same team of doctors and nurses.
“Year after year surveys show that the overwhelming majority of patients feel they have their privacy respected and they receive good care,” Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt said. “However this report shows there is clearly still more work for the NHS to do to meet our commitment to eliminate mixed-sex accommodation wherever possible.”
The report calls for: higher proportion of single beds and four-bed bays, instead of large bays and Nightingale wards; refurbishment of Nightingale wards to create single-sex areas; increased bed spacing; and provision of quiet areas for confidential discussions.