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First single room hospital opens

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The first hospital with all single rooms will require a “dramatic” change in the way that nurses work, experts have said.

The Pembury Hospital in Kent, which is part of the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells Trust, is due to open its women’s and children’s services and some support services a week today, with the remaining services opening in September.

The hospital has 10 wards with 512 rooms, all of which have ensuite facilities. It was built under a private finance initiative for around £230m.

The National Nursing Research Unit at King’s College London is researching how the new single-roomed hospital will change the way nurses will have to work.

Unit deputy director Jill Maben told Nursing Times the hospital’s business plan was based on the idea nurses would need to be at the bedside more often.

“It requires nurses to think and work differently - they will go into rooms more often to check patients,” she said.

Ms Maben said the change from the traditional Nightingale-type wards was “dramatic” and nurses’ main concern was visibility of patients.

However, windows have been designed into the space so patients’ bedheads can be seen, which will aid patient visibility.

The trust’s director of nursing, Flo Panel-Coates, said the nursing workforce “was excited”.

“We have invested in our healthcare support staff - there will be more people around to observe people,” she said.

The design of the ward, with a central hub for the nurse’s station surrounded by rooms on the outside edge of the ward, will result in less walking. “To get to [equipment and drugs] will be a lot easier for our staff,” she said.

Peter West, a health economist at the York Health Economics Consortium, studied the Bevan Ward at Hillingdon Hospital, which consists of 24 single rooms.

He said: “My personal view is that I still see a place for a few beds close to the nursing station where they are more or less under observation all the time.”

However, he added that patients preferred the rooms and the benefits “outweigh the other side of the coin”.

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Readers' comments (3)

  • Time will tell, not all patients like to be isolated with their TVs and telephones (a hospital or hotel?). An increase in staffing levels are required, will it happen, I don't think so, more deaths, possibly?

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  • it is fairly natural that some patients prefer single rooms. others do not and I hope there are still communal facilities such as a sitting room/coffee lounge where patients can have company of watch tv.
    i also hope that common sense is used and patients have all the observation they need whilst still respecting their privacy. i don't think windows are a good answer as any visitor can walk past and spy on who is in the room and what the patient is doing.
    i don't understand what all the fuss is about, other nurses in the more civilised European countries seem to cope with nursing their patients in private rooms which is considered perfectly normal and they are not forever putting obstacles and excuses in the way. nursing adults or any dignified human being in these so-called nightingale wards is not natural or in any sense normal, except of course in victorian times in antiquated gb

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  • I regularly work in a facility with single room nursing. The reason it works quite well from a patient perspective is because mostly no one is particularly ill, just recovering from elective (cherry picked) surgery! My biggest fear is finding someone collapsed and even beyond help because it all went on behind a closed door and I had 7 or 8 other patients to attend to, all behind closed doors too, and couldn't hear or see something that would make me want to stop and go and investigate. You need lots of hands and eys to make that kind of place safe and that plainly does not and will not happen. Until there is a disaster of course.

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