The health secretary Alan Johnson has pledged to increase the number of NHS hospitals offering patients single rooms during a visit to a London hospital.
Mr Johnson was visiting Hillingdon Hospital NHS Trust in north west London, which is running a pilot scheme to trial three different styles of en-suite single rooms.
The Bevan Ward, which opened in December last year, has 24 single rooms with en-suite bathrooms. The rooms have been designed to help patients relax and get more sleep while giving them privacy.
Mr Johnson said: ‘This is an important experiment in how we can introduce single rooms into hospital environments and get it right.
‘What I am struck by most of all is how the patients feel. It’s a thumbs up generally from the patients.’
Mr Johnson said many new hospitals will have single rooms by 2010, but added the NHS will not consist entirely of single-roomed hospitals.
He said: ‘We won’t get a situation where every single part of every single hospital is single rooms but we can expand the number.’
Researchers at the University of York are studying patient satisfaction, privacy, sleep quality, infection rates and feedback from staff on the ward.
Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: ‘It’s all very well for Alan Johnson to talk about how important single rooms in hospitals are, but unfortunately he is offering little more than warm words.
‘No-one should have to suffer the indignity of being put in a mixed sex ward, and no patient should catch an infection like MRSA because their hospital did not have the necessary number of single rooms to isolate infected patients.’