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Should all mental health wards be single-sex?

  • Comments (8)

Article

Hawley CJ et al (2013) The effect of single-sex wards in mental health; Nursing Times; 109: 48, 20-22.

Abstract

Background
The need for single-sex accommodation in mental health trusts has been widely expressed in documents from the NHS Executive and in national and local policies. This case study describes the effects of changing two mixed-sex wards into single-sex wards.

Methods
Two mixed-sex inpatient wards were reorganised into two single-sex wards. Qualitative data on staff views was gained from semi-structured interviews and collected.

Results
Staff and patients appear to have made the transition from mixed to single-sex wards with relatively few problems. Staff described differences emerging between the male and female wards, with the male ward becoming calmer, while the female ward became more disruptive.

Conclusions
Overall, the implementation was successful. We suggest that in general single-sex wards are just as effective as mixed-sex wards and, in some respects, may be better.

What do you think?

  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of single-sex accommodation?
  • Why do you think the female ward became more disruptive while the male ward became calmer?
  • Should all mental health wards be single-sex?
  • Comments (8)

Readers' comments (8)

  • I believe single sex wards are essential to the well being of patients who are anxious and have mental health issues, it could be dangerous for them to mix together and cause anger and even jealousy.

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  • Anonymous

    it depends on the design and layout of the ward.

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  • In my country mixed acute admission wards work very well, however there needs to be adequate staff and of course separate sleeping quarters etc.

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  • Anonymous

    In my country mixed acute admission wards work very well, however there needs to be adequate staff and of course separate sleeping quarters etc.

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  • I see we are reinventing the wheel here,I have worked on psychiatric wards which have been single sexed.both single and mixed wards have their positives and negatives.Its the staffing of either,type of ward that makes the difference

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  • Johnathan Crane

    Whilst I agree in principle to the two-sex ward model (male sex wards do tend to be calmer) I feel that it's rather simplified and exclusionist. Can we not divide wards by gender - and include an ungendered ward for those who don't identify with the gender binary? Certainly it would be incredibly difficult and expensive, but it would certainly serve its purpose much better. I'm trans myself and would be horrified to be placed on a ward that boxed me in a gender that didn't fit, and it would be very VERY damaging to my mental health.

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  • Anonymous

    it is more a question that should be asked of patients and the public where they would wish to be accommodated rather than on staff imposing it upon them.

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  • Anonymous

    Hardly a scientific study with only two wards. There could be various reasons that the behaviour changed, which cannot be explored unless this is done on a wider scale.

    Personally I don't like mixed-sex wards. Maybe the solution is to have the wards single-sex but have access to a day room where people could choose to go if they wanted a more normal, less boarding-school atmosphere, in addition to the day room on the single-sex ward itself.

    If somebody is trans, perhaps he or she could be asked which ward was preferable.

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