NHS patients mixed sex indignity continues on hospital wards

Men and women in hospital are still being treated on mixed-sex wards with little or no segregation, despite government promises to improve privacy for patients, the Conservative Party says.

In April ministers claimed that they were close to abolishing mixed-sex accommodation in the National Health Service. Figures obtained by the Conservatives suggest that 15 per cent of hospitals in England still use mixed, open-plan “Nightingale” wards, while a similar proportion (16 per cent) have wards where patients are segregated only by curtains. The party said that nearly a third of trusts did not have separate bathrooms for men and women.

There were 997 complaints about lack of privacy and dignity in hospital trusts and 135 complaints in mental health trusts in the past year, a poll of 132 acute trusts and 55 mental health trusts showed.

Andrew Lansley, the Shadow Health Secretary, accused the Government of breaking its promises on the issue. “Patients have enough to worry about when they go into hospital without having to suffer the indignity of being placed in accommodation that affords them too little privacy at such a sensitive time,” he said.

Alan Johnson, the Health Secretary, told a nurses’ conference last year that there was a “bit of a political distinction” between the terms mixed-sex accommodation – where men and women are in separate rooms or bays and have their own bathrooms and lavatories – and the larger, mixed sex wards.

The Department of Health responded: “We are reducing mixed-sex accommodation to an absolute minimum and have made significant progress. Some hospitals and local NHS areas still have more to do and they are now required to publish and implement ambitious plans to improve.”


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