A retired professor has backed the Scottish government’s decision that all new hospitals should only have single rooms to offer privacy and reduce acquired infections on site.
Hugh Pennington, emeritus professor of Bacteriology at the University of Aberdeen, believes single rooms in hospitals, as opposed to wards, are the way forward.
He argues that they are important in preventing and controlling healthcare associated infections, such as norovirus, Clostridium difficile and MRSA.
Opponents to the universal provision of single rooms have claimed that there is no evidence that they reduce hospital acquired infections.
However, Pennington says there is strong evidence to suggest that physical barriers are good at preventing the spread of microbes.
Reducing common hospital infections is one of the main reasons given by the Scottish government for having 100% single rooms. Another is to protect the dignity of patients.
By giving residents such privacy, there is the opportunity to facilitate family involvement in patient care and increase treatment at the bedside.
Pennington agrees on both these fronts. He also points to a 2008 Scottish government survey showing a rise in single room popularity and a marked decline in enthusiasm for shared accommodation among a representative sample of 990 adults across Scotland, compared with a 2007 survey by the Department of Health in England.
“Patient safety is paramount. Privacy is desired by many. Delivering these things needs single rooms,” concludes Pennington.
On the other hand, Chris Isles, consultant physician at Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary, claims many patients are worried about being lonely in hospital.
He wants to see people given the choice of a shared room, not forced into a single room, if that is what they prefer.
Referring to the 2008 survey as well, Isles points out that only 41% of respondents expressed a definite preference for a single room. And in his hospital, for example, a smaller survey of 80 inpatients found only half who had experienced a stay in a single room wanted to return to one if readmitted.