We’ll check government promise to end mixed-sex wards, say campaigners

Campaigners say they will hold the government to account on its renewed promise to eliminate mixed-sex hospital wards.

The health secretary Alan Johnson announced on Wednesday that NHS trusts which from next year fail to provide single-sex accommodation, including that for psychiatric patients, will be fined.

Labour has already pledged to end mixed-sex hospital accommodation – in its 1997 and 2001 election manifestos.

But the Healthcare Commission found last year that two-thirds of of psychiatric inpatients in England and Wales are still sharing sleeping accommodation or bathrooms with the opposite sex.

Campaigners, such as the Mind mental health charity, say mixed-sex accommodation is particularly inappropriate for vulnerable psychiatric patients.

New Department of Health guidance states men and women should not share hospital sleeping accommodation or toilet facilities, unless there is a valid clinical reason, such as for patients in accident and emergency wards.

A new £100m “privacy and dignity fund” will be used for NHS hospitals to end mixed-sex accommodation.

Mind’s chief executive Paul Farmer said: “We will be holding the government and the Care Quality Commission to account on this issue.

“It is vital that mental health wards are places where patients can feel confident and secure enough to progress towards recovery.”

Speaking at the NHS Chairs conference in London, Alan Johnson said: “The message is clear – the NHS has taken great strides in reducing mixed sex accommodation over the last 12 years but now it must eliminate it altogether other than where clinically necessary.”

Mr Johnson said that from next year any hospital failing to provide single-sex accommodation for a patient will be not be paid for the care of that patient.

But Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said the government’s plans “fall far short” of what is required.

He said: “If Labour were serious about stopping patients being forced to share wards with the opposite sex they would copy our pledge to double the number of single rooms in the NHS.

“Our pledge would allow every patient going into hospital for planned care to have a single room if they want one.”

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