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Mixed-sex wards to be eliminated this year


The government will announce that it is to end the “indignity” of mixed-sex hospital wards in England by the end of the year, it has been reported.

The Daily Telegraph said health secretary Andrew Lansley is to declare that men and women sharing wards is to be ended in all but accident and emergency and intensive care units by the end of the year.

The paper said he asked CNO Dame Christine Beasley to visit all hospital trusts that still have mixed-sex wards to see what they were doing to ensure that male and female patients did not have to share facilities.

Mr Lansley confirmed last night that he would be making a statement on the subject “shortly”, saying that getting rid of mixed-sex wards was in the best interests of patients.

“I have made clear repeatedly my deep frustration at the fact that mixed sex accommodation has not been eliminated from the NHS,” he said.

“Eliminating mixed sex accommodation is in patients’ best interests, and I made clear the priority I attach to it in the revised operating framework published in June. I will have more to say on this shortly.”

If he succeeds he will achieve a goal which eluded Labour ministers for over a decade.

Tony Blair first called for the abolition of mixed wards in 1996, when Labour was still in opposition, saying it should not be beyond “the collective wit” of ministers to achieve.

However two years ago, Lord Darzi, an eminent surgeon who was made a health minister by Gordon Brown, concluded the aim of providing single-sex wards across the NHS was an “aspiration that cannot be met”.

Patients’ groups welcomed the prospect that mixed-sex wards could finally be abolished, while at the same time questioning how it could be achieved at a time when public services were facing massive cutbacks.

Catherine Murphy, of the Patients’ Association, told The Daily Telegraph: “Given that each incoming secretary of state, and there have been a lot, and every new prime minister has made this same pledge since 1997, we will wait to see if this time it really is more than just rhetoric.

“At a time when we know that there are huge savings that have to be made in the health service, it is hard to see how hospitals are going to find the money for this.”


Readers' comments (16)

  • Mixed sex bays is fair enough, but eliminating mixed sex WARDS??? Is that productive or even realistic?

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  • I think it's utterly appalling that mixed sex wards still exist. dignity is one issue, vulnerability and safety are others.

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  • Anonymous | 16-Aug-2010 8:10 pm, why exactly? The mixed sex wards I have been on in the past all had seperate male/female bays as appropriate/needed and the side rooms are obviously private. Dignity was not impaired in any way because of this, and I don't know how you include vulnerability and safety into it, are the female bay at more risk because there is a male bay next door? Even though they will never mix? Or vice versa?

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  • Well shoot me down for being an old-fogey but here we go... I am a Registered Nurse with 35 years experience. I started my nursing career when single-sex wards were the absolute normality – and that was a GOOD thing!

    Back in the 70's the NHS actually had a helluva lot smaller budget than it does now. So, tell me, how did they manage to maintain single-sex wards back then (with all those 'old' buildings) and yet they say they can't afford it now?

    Answer... in those days the NHS didn't throw away such a large portion of it's budget on useless middle-management execs and committees.

    Look at what these “tossers” are wasting... GOOGLE... Severalls Hospital... and see what these dicks have done with YOUR money (or rather wasted it!)

    Get rid of the NHS execs and you'll save billions.

    Spend the millions saved on employing more trained nurses and bringing back single-sex wards!

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  • How many more times will the Government announce an end to mixed wards, and the NHS fail to deliver?

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  • Agree in essence with 11pm post. I worked for all of my clinical career with single sex wards. No problems, no empty beds.
    Not Mike about alwasy having single sex bays. I have sadly had several family members in hospital and they have never been in a single sex bay - they found it embarrassing and it was detrimental to their well-being and health. None of the toilet or bathing facilities were single sex.
    I have even witnessed nurses moving patients into a single bay irrespective of sex (one elderly lady in the midst of 5 men) with poor curtain cover. When questioned they said it was easier to 'shove all the old people together' and to further questioning 'they don't know the differnece anyway'. This in a 'flagship' London hospital. This is disgraceful but it is common practice.
    Have nurses lost all sence of propriety?

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  • For once I actually agree with Mike. I can't see what all the fuss is about. OK keep the bathrooms seperate and if possible keep seperate bays but do not start fining hospitals for not being able to comply. How on earth you can be expected to keep totally seperate bays/wards in hospitals that were not specifically designed as single sex is beyond me. Genders do not get sick in equal numbers, if your male bay is overflowing and your female bay is half empty what are you supposed to do? Refuse to admit more males? These are hospitals we are discussing not 5 star hotels. If people are sick they don't care where they are as long as they are looked after. Obviously some common sense needs to be used, you wouldn't put a fit young man in a bay of women. Perhaps you could even ask the patients who would mind being in a mixed sex ward. The safety of the patient is the important thing and research shows that the more you move a patient the more danger you put them in. Trying to maintain single sex wards will and has lead to far too many inappropriate transfers. Lets concentrate on patient careand safety not patients choice.

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  • I think there is an element of confusion here, I don't know if it's through unintentional misquotes or what. Some sources are saying mixed sex wards and other are just saying mixed sex bays, it's confusing!

    The hospital I work at has to my knowledge, no mixed sex bays which is fantastic but it'd be hell if we somehow had to go to entire single sex wards. I can only imagine how much of a struggle it would be for hospitals that still have mixed sex bays.

    Not to mention the fact the government will penalise hospitals that have mixed sex accommodation... isn't that money that would be better spent on MAKING the accommodation single sex? I'm sure they don't have men and women on the same wards/bays/whatever out of choice...

    So what do they want? Mixed sex wards gone entirely? Or we should have single sex bays and seperate facilities?

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  • I was admitted to a mixed sex bay a couple of years ago and was very upset, I did not want to be nursed in a mixed sex bay and if possible not a mixed sex ward! My mother was also admitted to a mixed sex ward (the ones with lots of initials because we had to reach targets and that was a way round it!) and was mortified! We need to respect people's dignity and privacy and this should not be happening.

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  • Anonymous | 17-Aug-2010 12:00 pm that was my point exactly I am in total agreement!

    And Sandra I am sorry but I have to disagree, I can see your point about mixed sex bays, the hospital I work for is actually spot on with denoting male and female bays within a ward and sticking to it and this I agree with totally. However, you say you don't want to be Nursed on a mixed sex ward? I'm sorry but why not? What possible difference does it make to you or your care if the bay next door has men in it? You will not see them or come into contact with them! You will not be sharing facilities. Each bay (male and female) will have it's own gender appropriate toilet/shower facility. What possible breach of privacy/dignity is that causing? What is the problem?

    Incedentally (and I do not mean to cause offence here, I just want to bring it up as a point of debate, but I know some people will take offence anyway), are you also one of those women who refuses to be treated by a 'Male' Nurse? As if that makes a difference in treatment? Also it would be interesting to know how many women are bothered by mixed sex WARDS (not bays) compared to how many men.

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