Labour has broken mixed sex wards promise admits Health Secretary Alan Johnson
Mr Johnson told a meeting of senior NHS executives that ministers had “got it wrong” and “sane and rational arguments about why it can’t be done no longer cut it”, a regional health boss claims.
The labour Government promised before the 1997 and 2001 elections to end the practice of male and female patients being forced to share a ward.
Yet another fresh attempt to stop the practice is soon to be launched by ministers, according to the account of the meeting by Graham Eccles, the chief executive of the South East Coast Strategic Health Authority. Mr Johnson is expected to unveil a new initiative on the issue next week.
Last month data from the Conservatives disclosed that about one in seven of hospital trusts still used at least one open plan mixed sex ward. Curtains were still being to segregate patients in some areas, it was discovered.
In an email to colleagues, Mr Eccles wrote: “There is no doubt that the Tories have rattled Labour over their failure to meet the manifest promise of ending mixed sex accommodation.
“[Mr Johnson’s] view is that the [Department for Health] got it wrong in implementing the policy in 1997, again in 2001 but he is going to make sure it is done right in 2009.
“I quote: ‘Sane and rational arguments about why it can’t be done no longer cut it with me, it’s going to happen’.”
Mr Eccles’s memo stated that the Health Secretary will be asking hospitals for their assessment of the issue before April.
It added: “Expect a revised definition on the subject that simply makes it clear that men and women and children and adults will no longer share the same accomodation. Everything is included in that definition, except accident and emergency.”
Andrew Lansley, the shadow health secretary, said: “This is a stark admission of failure from Labour. Frankly it is a scandal that they have done nothing about mixed sex wards except make repeated empty promises.
“What’s worse is that they are only taking action now because Conservatives have exposed their abysmal record and set out real plans for change, with single rooms in hospital for all patients who need them.”