Giving patients their own hospital room does not improve infection rates or lengths of stay and may increase the likelihood of falls, research seen exclusively by Nursing Times shows.
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The unpublished study, by York Health Economics Consortium and The Hillingdon Hospital Trust, was commissioned by the Department of Health, and reveals that patients like single rooms but outcomes are not necessarily any better.
The study was based on a nine month analysis of 1,289 patients in gastroenterology, haematology and general medicine wards, as well as 120 patient questionnaires.
While previous studies have shown more than two thirds of patients preferred shared accommodation, at Hillingdon the vast majority – 92 per cent – wanted to spend their next stay in a single room.
Hillingdon’s lead research nurse for patient experience Sarah McDonagh said: “For many the fact they had their own bathroom was a huge component of satisfaction… a real privacy and dignity issue.”
However, asked if they had feelings of isolation, 12 per cent of patients said yes, and 18 per cent said they felt lonely.
Patients were treated in three types of room with varying degrees of privacy, one of which could not be easily seen from the hospital corridor.
Ms McDonagh said that, anecdotally, patients preferred rooms with better visibility of nurses.
However, there was no evidence lengths of stay were lower in single rooms and a small reduction in infections in the study wards was attributed to declining rates of
C difficile across the hospital.
The change also increased cleaning costs by 75 per cent, while medication costs rose by 28 per cent – partly balanced out by lower costs for sleep medication.
Ms McDonagh also told Nursing Times a small rise in falls had been identified in the single rooms, which had resulted in a staff education drive on the issue.
She said: “Over half of the falls were associated with access to the bathroom. Nurses are making sure they carry out regular observations, asking patients if they need the toilet and if they have enough to drink.”
The Department of Health has said single rooms should comprise between 20 and 50 per cent of all accommodation in new hospital developments. Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells Trust is building the first hospital made up entirely of single rooms.
RCN head of policy Howard Catton said there was “undoubtedly” a need to increase single side rooms in the interests of dignity. But it was vital to have bays for those wanting social interaction.
In a Nursing Times survey in January, more than two thirds of nurses said single rooms made it more difficult to observe patients.