Speaking exclusively to Nursing Times, Dame Christine said it was ‘really important that nurses take the issue seriously’.
Her comments follow government proposals that trusts will be able to apply for a slice of the£100m funding pot the DH is providing to help hospitals get rid of mixed sex accommodation.
The ‘privacy and dignity fund’ is to be made available immediately through strategic health authorities to help trusts make the necessary adjustments to their accommodation over the next six months.
‘I know it is not an easy thing to fix,’ Dame Christine said. ‘If what would be helpful for nurses is access to money, I think they should be saying to managers this is what the issue is, this is where the blockages are.
‘Hospital staff must realise that being cared for in mixed sex accommodation can be very upsetting for patients. Doctors and nurses have a clear duty to make sure that hospital patients are cared for in an environment which meets their clinical needs, and ensures that their privacy and dignity is maintained,’ she told Nursing Times.
Announcing a renewed drive to abolish mixed sex accommodation last week, health secretary Alan Johnson said that in future trusts would only be paid for the treatment of a patient on a mixed-sex ward if it was clinically justified.
‘From 2010-11, hospitals that fail in their duty to protect patients’ privacy by allowing mixed-sex accommodation where it is not clinically necessary will be financially penalised,’ he said.
There will be exceptions to the rule. For example, men and women being treated in ICU, A&E and some medical assessment units will still be able to be treated together.
Latest Healthcare Commission patient survey results suggest around a quarter may have been placed in mixed sex accommodation in 2007.